General Business

Lessons in Leadership: Great Leaders Learn from Their Mistakes

Steve Adubato and Mary Gamba are joined by Tierney Wade, Chief Operating Officer, The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) and why we need compassion and empathy in business. Then, Steve and Mary share tips and tools for confronting difficult situations and initiating challenging conversations in a Lessons in Leadership Mini-seminar.

All leaders make mistakes. We are human after all. But it is a leader’s ability to admit mistakes and, more importantly, learn from them, that sets them about from the pack. Following are a few common leadership mistakes many of us make:

  • Being too “hands off.” Of course, we want to delegate specific tasks and functions. But some leaders become so removed from their team’s operations that they lose touch. These leaders have little idea about the productivity or effectiveness of team members and, therefore, are in no position to provide coaching or feedback as to how these employees can improve. This hands-off style communicates a lack of passion or interest in the team and its future, even if that is not your intent. Great leaders recognize there is a difference between delegating to empower your people and handing off responsibility without any guidance or coaching.
  • Obsessive micromanaging. No, this is not a contradiction to the previous leadership mistake because a leader who does not delegate any tasks or responsibilities runs the risk of filling his or her plate to the point that it becomes impossible to see the forest from the trees. Further, by not effectively delegating and creating other leaders on the team, these micromanaging leaders communicate the message that they don’t trust other team members which demotivates employees, thereby reducing productivity, effectiveness, and morale.
  • Not engaging particular team members. Now, I am not saying that any of us intentionally avoid one team member or another, but over time, it is only natural that we rely more heavily on certain team members who then become our “go to” when we need to get things done. As a leader, it is your job to make the time to actively engage with everyone on your team. On a smaller team, this could mean scheduling weekly or bi-weekly touch base meetings with individuals to check in with them. On larger teams, where one-on-one meetings may not be realistic, schedule small group meetings with very specific agenda items related to those individuals or a specific department. They key is to make sure your team members feel valued and heard.
  • Surrounding yourself with “yes” players. A major leadership mistake is to create a culture where those around you tell you that you are right, even if you propose a terrible idea or initiative. Weak leaders communicate the message that team members are acting “disloyal” when they ask questions of the team leader. One of the biggest reasons for this leadership failure is the insecurity and lack of confidence of the leader. These leaders incorrectly assume that any challenge to their leadership sends the message that they are somehow unfit to lead the team, when in fact the real message is that a particular team member simply disagrees on a particular point. The next time you propose an idea, see how many of your team members challenge it. And if no one does, directly ask team members to share a different point of view.
  • Avoiding feedback. Too many leaders avoid giving hard to hear feedback to team members because they don’t like conflict, they are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or worse, they are afraid of not being liked. While giving feedback is challenging, it is essential to exceptional leadership. The only way those around us are able to grow and be effective leaders themselves is if we invest the time not only in their development, but also in giving specific and direct feedback.
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