The signs are all there. Everybody sees them. That is, everyone but you. Although you are at the helm of your sinking ship, the precedence you've set has silenced your obedient crew from speaking up. Your organization is charting a steady course towards self-destruction. Do not fear. There may still be time to save your business if you care enough to heed the warning signs.
Bad leaders share one thing in common: they often don't recognize their incompetence. Or, if they do, they wouldn't admit it to anyone, including themselves. It's no coincidence the average adult can only think of one or two leaders who they've truly respected and admired throughout their entire working career. It takes significantly more effort, time and humility to be an exceptional leader.
Exceptional leadership inspires tremendous business results from a high performing team in any economy. Incompetent leadership slowly kills business growth and encourages underperforming teams. There are telltale warning signs to look for if you want to know how you may be slowly killing your organization.
1. You're losing your best people.
More and more, your once enthusiastic people are choosing to leave. Ironically, their fresh ideas, drive and impressive track records are what caused you to hire them in the first place. However, your continuous lack of support, follow-through, open-mindedness and validation is what's driving them out. As a result, you are bleeding out your best hope for growing your business and reinforcing "yes man" behavior from your underperformers who will tell you what you want to hear in exchange for a paycheck.
2. You know you're playing favorites, and you don't care.
You just can't help yourself. You always make time for your brownnosers, tattletales and relatives who work for you. You choose to recognize your favorite people and continue to cover up for them. You make excuses for their poor work or lackluster sales results. You ignore the suggestions or contributions of your higher performing people because it's easier to surround yourself with a crew of personal ego-strokers, than to acknowledge you may not have all the answers when challenged with a different idea. You continue to empower your weak links and discriminate against your strong players. Your insecurity is your biggest influence.
3. You are scared of taking risks, and you don't allow it from others.
You continue to miss sales or performance goals. Your profit margins are shrinking and customers are leaving. What is your response? To repeatedly try the same approach you've been using because it's safe. Although you are 100 percent correct in saying it is safe: safely predictable - it isn't the type of safe that will make your organization sustainable. Instead of striking fear into the minds of anyone who dares to challenge the status quo, swallow your pride and ask for ways to change your organization's response to an ever-changing market. Then, listen and enable your people to put a new approach into place. Recognize when an opportunity to improve presents itself, and roll the dice. Playing it safe and conservative in all situations will further sink your business into obscurity.
4. You don't follow through and get back to your people.
You are a busy person. Your day is full of meetings, networking events and tough decisions, right? So what. You just described a day in the life of most active professionals. Your time is no more or less valuable than that of every person who works for you. Each time you are "too busy" and choose to avoid a conversation you promised to have with a member of your team, you are showing them you can't be trusted. Once they've recognized you as an untrustworthy leader, they will not believe, listen or follow you. This is an epic reality you need to face. Once you recognize and believe this, you will be well on your way towards becoming a servant leader. Servant leadership is an unselfish leadership philosophy focused on cooperation, collaboration and trust. It is based upon a strong service-focused leadership attitude that leaders bestow upon all of their interactions with those who work for them. Adopting this leadership philosophy promotes loyalty, productivity and motivation.
You know what type of leader you are. This article isn't meant to solve your organization's problems. That is your job, and it begins with a long, hard and uncomfortable look in the mirror.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, professional development and executive coaching for more than 13 years. She brings leadership experience from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.changeagentsee.com.