by Jayesh Menon
I have often been asked if i can summarise what would be some of the key leadership mistakes that people can avoid making in any organization. Though the word "leadership" is one of the most searched items in Google and can churn out some 138,000,000 results in 0.17 seconds( as in my case), it is often the least understood and sometimes the most controversially argued. This is because leadership is often culturally driven and hence the expectations too. Below are my thoughts on some pitfalls you can avoid as a leader irrespective of your level in the organisation.
- Creating a stereotype: Well I know it's easier said than done because most leaders have a "brand" and it grows with time and role. While some stereotypes are perceived as positive in a particular culture, role, organisation and others may perceive it as negative. The best is to avoid being "cast" into a particular type.
- Arrogance: There is a thin line between being confident and being arrogant. Anyone who has grown in an organisation will be able to vouch that there is nothing as so called lifelong stability. You can be a leader one day and left with nothing the other day.
- Hiring people who are less competent than you: There is one very important lesson that I have learned very early in my career from one of my previous managers. He used to always advocate that one should hire someone who is better than you. As a leader if you avoid doing so, you will end up with a team who will underperform and hence can hinder your own success story. I have often heard that an A player will hire another A player, while B players always hire C players.
- Lack of empathy: As a leader you are not being paid only for your "technical" competency, but more for your ability to influence people and guide them. The key to this is being in the shoes of the other person when need be. I am sure most would have heard of emotional quotient (coined by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer) well then it's precisely that. Irrespective of any culture that you are from, this is something that works well across the world.
- Avoiding a culture of recognition: Peter Drucker once said that "culture eats strategy for breakfast". Though culture by itself is a point of entirely another topic, creating a culture of recognising people for even small wins is what makes people do more. I have heard leaders who make statements like " they are paid for it" or " its part of their work" etc., as an excuse for not recognising and rewarding people. I have never met one culture or one person in my life who doesn't value a genuine appreciation from their leader. And the good news is that it really doesn't take much effort, time or money to appreciate.
- Prejudice: This is one of the biggest pitfalls that a global manager or an expat falls in. Many of us have been bought up by a certain culture which would classify anything that is not coming from our own set of people as "exotic", "mystical" and often hard to trust. I have had experiences as an expat where I have been "coached" into believing how people in a certain nationalities would behave and that I should be cautious of falling in the trap. As a leader I would suggest you to keep an open mind when dealing with people and if possible read some of the research works likehofstede’s dimensions of culture before setting your mind on how you "perceive" any cultures others than yours.
- Creating "organisational dynamics": In simple terms it means creating an atmosphere of politics in the organisation. Though it is only in the utopian world that one would have no human nature of this kind , many of the leaders have given up to the fact that they cannot, but be part of it. I have been lucky enough to work with some very thoughtful leaders who have resisted the urge to be part of this "dynamics" and yet be successful.
- Leading without accountability: Recently we heard of an incident in one of the countries where the captain of a sinking ship was the first one to escape leaving his passengers helpless. This kind of behaviour in organisation is seen amongst insecure leaders who would blame their team for mistakes. Remember that you get the team you deserve and hence it is entirely on you to take the accountability of its performance, especially when the going is tough. If you stand in the front and lead during difficult times, there is no doubt that that your team will stand by you and ensure your success. I have written an article on this point in one of my blogs.
- Blind spots: It is often noted that one of the greatest assets of a good leader is that she/ he asks for regular feedback. Too often we get carried away by being oblivious to our own weakness as an individual. There are cultures where your team member may be open enough to highlight these to you , but there are more cultures where your team member may not highlight this to you as they hold you, or your position in reverence and hence in the process without realising scuttle your own ability to be a successful leader. There are multiple ways of identifying your blind spots and sometimes a genuine 360 degree feedback will give you an immense insight into your own personality.
- Being too busy: Being a leader is sometimes a sacrifice( if you call it that way!), and one of the sacrifices you have to make is to find time for your team member whenever they need you. Having a leader who cannot value add by not having enough time for them when they need guidance is equal to having no leader at all. After all the question is why should someone be lead by you?