Are you or your team guilty of these leadership sins?
The emergence of new leadership is seemingly slow. With the world crying out for effective and “switched on” leadership, the gap still, it seems, is wide. According to DDI’s 2014/2015 Leadership forecast , a mere 25% of HR Professionals polled, thought their organisations leadership as high quality, while only 40% of leaders say the quality of their organisations leadership is high. As would be expected the remedy according to the research is for improved and structured leadership development.
In my experience in working across sectors and more recently with coaching clients, there are some fundamental reasons, not often articulated, why leaders are simply not effective. Some time ago, someone asked me what the biggest leadership sins were, and this is the list I came up with.
1. Lack Vision about Their Team
Even people who are visionary often have a great vision about their outcomes and how they will grow and nurture their customer base, but pay less attention and often no attention as to how their team will work together. This might seem like a secondary consideration, but it is the driving force behind losing trust, defaulting on organisation values and discouraging engagement. A great leader will avoid this and other leadership sins, by creating a great vision about the qualities, values, engagement and internal dynamics of their team. This creates the core of the business and the reach spreads out to customers and stakeholders in an eminently positive way.
2. Are Happy with The “Status Quo”
I see it again and again, the team results are ok, and perhaps customer feedback is good enough, but there are no attempts to iron out mediocre cultural habits, or even habits which can be detrimental to parts of the business. This is when leaders and their teams prefer being in their comfort-zone. The pain of being mediocre simply isn’t painful enough. Being in their comfort zone can be one of the biggest barriers to achieving greatness for an organisation. If an organisation is achieving good enough results then the imperative to grow beyond and above the cultural norm can be fairly weak. Leaders who are happy with the “Status Quo” commit one of the cardinal leadership sins in my view.
3. Concentrate on meeting targets instead of using targets as a tool for better service
Measures and metrics are brilliant and a must when used in context. Unfortunately when an organisation values hitting targets and profits margins above great customer service or quality teamwork then the result is likely lack of sustainability. When a leader concentrates on targets as a means to an end, instead of using them as useful information, then they are creating a poor culture which doesn’t see the whole picture. When an organisation is focused on great customer service and getting the best out of the team, and targets are used as a tool to assist, the rest follows naturally.
4. Recruit based on competence instead of excellence
I know in recruitment circles, competency based recruitment is meant positively. Competencies have helped job sponsors be specific about the skills, behaviours and knowledge they need to select an effective candidate. Competencies in themselves though are often not quite right. They often fail to miss the “x” factor needed for certain jobs and again and again, I have seen people recruited who meet all the competencies, but interviewers know they aren’t right for the organisation, or a specific role. The first question a great organisation should ask is: How can we attract excellence to raise the bar in the organisation?
5. Competitiveness across teams is fostered
I’m all for a little healthy competitiveness. Comparisons across results are a must. The problem comes when results become the bottom line. End of the month or annual results might earn a team or an individual a bonus, but quite often fantastic teams can’t get good results for a number of reasons. It might be because they are doing the right things, but progress is steady and it takes time to get better results in the long run for example. Results must be tempered with a balanced overview. Unhealthy competitiveness comes in many guises, one of the worst is when a team will “protect” resources, or make decisions which aren’t for the greater good of the whole, but are simply to preserve status, resources, or accolades for the individual or a single team.
6. Inadequate leadership and management skills are tolerated.
I have spoken literally to hundreds of leaders, and if I had a penny for every leader who bemoaned the quality of the leadership or management skills in the organisations, I would be pretty rich I reckon. Getting key leaders to do something about it are different things. The amount spent on leadership and management development is phenomenal, some 35% of corporate learning is spent on leadership training in the USA alone, and yet still the skills gap is wide. It seems there is no lack of development, but more often than not the accountability or consequences of poor leadership and management practices are simply not apparent.
7. Allowing familiarity to preside over undignified behaviour
Dignity at work is for me one of the most important values an organisation can prize. The problem is, if an organisation has people who have worked there for a number of years, it can become like a tired marriage and over time the tenet of “familiarity breeds contempt” can become a reality. I have heard many leaders and managers when challenged about less than dignified behaviour of their employees towards one another say things like “that’s just billy, (or Brenda, or bob etc. etc. ), it’s just the way they are”. Even worse if the employee feedback survey indicates even one member of staff feels like they are bullied, then inaction is tantamount to condoning unacceptable behaviour, or even the perception of it.