5 Deadly Sins of Leadership

admin - Thursday, August 13, 2015

I read this excellent article that my colleague, Gene Early, wrote and found it so compelling I wanted to share it with you as a guest blog! A must read for all you leaders, so enjoy!

The 5 Deadly Sins of Leading…

#1 Confuse vision with financial goals, industry recognition, and personal gain.

True vision inspires people to reach beyond themselves, to find depths of commitment, creativity, and compassion that makes a difference. It lifts one’s eyes to what’s possible and what’s worth the investment of one’s life capital. Consider Martin Luther King, Jr and the vision he shared when he said: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ …I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”

Businesses today are positioned to influence their communities, nations, and the globe. How you use your knowledge, talent, and skill as a leader will determine whether you have such influence. When your work has the meaning that true vision offers, you become wealthy with personal satisfaction, outward accomplishment, and inner peace as well as material benefits.

Leaders who have vision and hold fast to it may not see the final fulfillment of that vision as was the case with Martin Luther King, Jr. On the other hand, without such a vision they certainly won’t fulfill all their potential as Nelson Mandela did. In 1952, he declared, “One day I will be the first black president of South Africa.” In May of 1994, after 27 years in prison, his vision was fulfilled and a nation was saved from self-destruction. You, as a leader, have as much potential as you are willing to claim, and to sacrifice for. It is your choice and your legacy.

#2 Act as if emotional intelligence and particularly self-awareness is a distraction from the real work of making the numbers.

Howard Gardner, author of Leading Minds, concluded from his research of global leaders that “It is the particular burden of the leader to help other individuals determine their personal, social, and moral identities; more often than not, leaders inspire in part because of how they have resolved their own identity issues.”Furthermore, he notes that the influence of leaders he studied came from the crucial fact that they embodied in their lives the stories they told.

All behavior is sourced from your identity. To the degree you have unresolved identity issues, your behavior will send mixed signals that confuse rather than clarify what is required of those who follow you.

It has been said that “who you are speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you are saying.” Without the self-awareness and emotional intelligence to know your self, the story you live will be compromised, the example you offer will limit your team’s horizons, and the expectations you enact will fail to release your team’s full potential.

#3 Surround yourself with B and C tier players.

Insecure leaders fear being shown up as inadequate. As a result, they ensure that no one around them outshines them. As John Wooden, the most successful college basketball coach in US history with 10 national championships in twelve seasons and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player as well as a coach has said, “You’re only as good as your inner circle.”

This principle is important for two reasons. 1) You are a player. Are you willing to honestly assess yourself and ask, “What tier am I in? Am I an A player, or a B-C player?” Whatever level you are at you need to raise your game as a team member as well as team leader. 2) If you are not committed to quality players surrounding you, you may succeed for a time on your own strengths but you will soon discover you are under-resourced. You cannot win all alone and great players make for great teams.

Continuing with the basketball analogies, Phil Jackson, winning coach of 11 NBA championships had this to say about Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time: “When Michael returned to the Bulls in 1995 after a year and a half of playing minor league baseball, he didn’t know most of the players and he felt completely out of sync with the team. It wasn’t until he got into a fight with Steve Kerr at practice that he realized he needed to get to know his teammates more intimately. He had to understand what made them tick, so that he could work with them more productively. That moment of awakening helped Michael become a compassionate leader and ultimately helped transform the team into one of the greatest of all time.” Your success depends on many things. However, your ability to assemble, oversee, and empower great talent is what will make the biggest difference in your career long term.

#4 Ignore the culture you are in, both in terms of what presently exists and in terms of your attention to creating an environment for success.

As Lou Gerstner, largely credited with turning IBM around through strategic insight, wrote, “I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.” As true as that was in the 1990’s, it has become even more imperative today.  Underscoring the significance of culture, the Deloitte 2015 Global Human Capital Trends report covering 3300 business and HR leaders from 106 countries found that “Culture and engagement is the most important issue companies face around the world. 87% of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, and 50 percent call the problem very important…”

The culture of a company is the organizational equivalent of the character of a person.  As a leader, you are the primary determinant of your unit’s culture whether you are CEO responsible for the entire organization or line manager responsible for your team. As Jim Collins has written in Good to Great, “You change the culture of a company by changing the behavior of its leaders. You measure the change in culture by measuring the change in the personal behavior of its leaders and the performance of the business.”

Your behavior as a leader counts. Especially today as millennials who value meaning and purpose even above achievement,  enter into ever increasing positions of responsibility, you are faced with creating a culture to empower all you lead. The degree to which you energize and maintain your culture will be instrumental in the degree of your long term success.

#5 Emphasize and try to fix the ways in which your staff, employees, and/or followers are falling short in delivering results expected.

Employee engagement matters. According to Gallup’s 2013 report, State of the Global Workplace, only 13% of employees surveyed in 142 countries worldwide were engaged in their jobs. When comparing top and bottom quartile companies on levels of engagement, Gallup found that top quartile companies were 22% more profitable and 21% more productive.

Employee engagement, defined as emotional investment in one’s work with a focus on creating value for the organization, is a measure of organizational health. When leaders respond to the felt needs of their followers, they receive one of the highest returns on investment available to them. However, when they focus on weaknesses and developmental needs, they reduce employee engagement leading to lower returns on investment.

Leaders who fail to deliver results don’t last long. In addition, their physical, mental, and emotional health suffers from the stress they endure. If you as a leader want to be successful, pay attention to “tools of your trade” that produce success. Creating an environment that others are attracted to, nourished by, and productive in is one of those tools, a means of ensuring engagement that increases productivity and profitability.