This is a follow-up post to my earlier post, The 3 Most Common Downfalls of Leaders. Today, I show you how to avoid those downfalls. Avoiding the three most common downfalls of leaders is not difficult, but requires intentional effort.
Without further ado, here is how you avoid each of the three most common leadership downfalls:
Get constant feedback.
I’ve written a lot about leaders getting feedback from others and I suggest you read those posts. Most of what I write comes from my own experience getting feedback. The short version, if you don’t read those posts is that I was completely naïve to my failings as a leader. I was headed for a downfall and didn’t know it…until I got feedback.
Knowing, as they so often repeated on the show, G.I. Joe, was half the battle. That allowed me to see my failings from the eyes of those most impacted by them, my team. It was only then that I could put an action plan in place to fix the problems. I was done with half the battle, but the road ahead wasn’t easy.
So once you have feedback, what’s next to avoid the three common downfalls of leaders?
1. Fear-based leadership
This goes beyond the cliché of “servant leadership.” To avoid being a fear-based leader, you must invest tons of time in your team. You need to have one-on-one meetings with them, make them feel valued, coach them, and find ways to serve them above and beyond a paycheck.
Fear-based leaders use their position of authority to frighten their team members into doing what they want. Great leaders help their team members to see the value in doing excellent work.
To avoid being a fear-based leader, keep yourself in check. If the feedback shows that your team is intimidated by you, develop an action plan to get on more friendly terms with them. Open the lines of communication and actually listen to them. Stop using threats of firing, demotion, or pay cuts as a means to an end. Motivate them to achieve in other, more creative ways.
Put principles first.
You may have heard it a thousand times, but I will repeat it here: The most common character trait among great leaders and millionaires is fanatical integrity.
If the feedback shows that you care more about your personal finances than your team’s well-being, the customers, or even the interests of the company, you need some time off from thinking about money at all. Start prioritizing others first. I’m not saying you need to spend the next twenty years not considering your personal interests at all, but for the time being, eliminate it entirely as a consideration. Put principles first.
If you own the company, put your team and customers first. If you work for a company, include their interests as well.
The best way to do this is to include them in your decision-making. A solitary leader will too often fail to see others’ views. As hard as you may try, you will eventually slip into self-centric thinking. When you include others (team members, customers, and those above you) you will get all points of view and make it much easier to base your decisions on what is best for everyone else.
OK, done. That’s it. I could be a pastor. Just tell people to “be humble” and then assume that if you try hard enough, you should have that mastered by next Friday.
The truth is, I don’t know what else to suggest here to truly rid you of ego-based leadership. But I do have some tips to help you over time and they all go from the outside-in.
Here are 8 ways to rid yourself of ego. This isn’t about heart change, it’s about showing some level of humility.
- Give credit to others.
- Give others the spotlight.
- Don’t sit at the head of the table.
- Let others lead meetings.
- Talk less than you listen. (If it helps, keep a timer, seriously)
- Open the floor to others’ ideas.
- Stop using “I” in reference to team projects. (“I am working on” becomes “We are working on”)
- Stop using “my” and “mine” in reference to your team, products, or company. Use “our” and “ours.”
- _________ (What would you add here? Answer below in the comments)
None of those magically make a person humble. But they are the right behaviors. Over time, I believe they will help leaders to be more humble.
To recap, first get feedback. Then, develop an action plan and follow it.
What tips do you have to help leaders avoid these common downfalls?