Leading By Example: How to avoid Common Mistakes even Smart Leaders make
Admit it, you sometimes find yourself in a situation where you say to yourself, "Doh! I cannot believe I just did that!" Often it's something simple or small, but the fact that we showed some chink in our leadership armor shows we are not perfect, and we hate it. What we don't realize is that when we work so hard to be perfect and drive to exceed even our own expectations, we are constantly making some very common mistakes.
As leaders, we strive for everyone to see us as masters in our roles, the Obi-Wan Kenobi's of our universe. But the reality is that we actually get caught up in complacency and habitual routines. We also work in environments where it is rare for someone, especially a subordinate, to speak up and tell you that you are doing something that makes you look like a fool.
Here are some common mistakes to avoid so that you can lead by example:
1) Slavish devotion to the "best practice" fallacy. The only best practice is the one that's best for your franchisee organization. If you read something in a book, hear something at a workshop, or someone else appears to be doing something better than you are, by all means review their approach and work to tailor it to your culture. If you find success - great! But if you are experiencing ongoing issues and resistance from your people and customers, it's not a best practice for you.
2) Blindly blaming people when issues pop up versus ensuring policy/procedures best serve customer and employee needs. The problem is almost always the policy or the procedure, not the person who used whatever someone developed to make their job easier for them. Never and always are dangerous words, but almost always makes it easy for the employee to be successful and for your customers to do business with you.
3) Believing those around you have ESP. My guess is that most of the job descriptions in your organization do not formally include ESP as a skill requirement. Informally, well, that's another story. If you want your people to know what you're thinking, clearly communicate with them. If you engage in communication early and often, preferably oral communication vs. written (email, text, tweet, etc.) you'll have greater success in getting what you want.
4) Get over your ego. None of us are infallible. Not even the Pope considers himself infallible in all matters (he limits himself to that claim only when talking about faith and morals), so who are the rest of us to lay claim to that mantle? You will make missteaks - oops, I mean mistakes. As Alexander Pope said in An Essay on Criticism, "to err is human; to forgive divine." In more recent times, well at least in the 1960's, The Mamas & the Papas reminded us that everyone is "gonna trip, stumble, and fall; and when you land, it's no fun at all."
5) Failing to delegate one or more of the following: authority, responsibility, and accountability. You can probably do a lot - maybe you can even multi-task. But if you want to build a successful multi-unit franchisee organization you can't do it all. The more you try to do, the more your people will let you do. Give them a chance to do something worthwhile from their perspective; and that means give them the authority to move ahead, the education to do it right, and communicate with them about the outcome.
6) Hoarding leadership capital. Just because you are in a role that presumes you are to lead people, it does not preclude you from also mentoring. Sharing and being generous in what you know, how your leadership journey was for you, and working with your people to grow into future leadership roles is not only rewarding, but pays long-term dividends. When you mentor your team members, you are creating a deeper bench of talent, driving more loyalty, and ultimately, setting the foundation for future succession.
Remember that the difference between being a leader and being an exceptional leader is to admit our shortcomings and weaknesses. By avoiding some of these common mistakes, and taking steps to create new habits, you gain more respect, more followers, and in the end, a true Obi-Wan Kenobi status with your team.
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