By Nicole Fallon
Business News Daily - August 29, 2014
Gaining a leadership position generally means that someone has done something right. He or she has demonstrated the ability to remain graceful under pressure, inspire colleagues and execute plans to move the company forward. But leaders are far from perfect, and like anyone else, many of them need to work on certain things. Here are five common leadership weaknesses and how you can work to improve them.
Accomplishing goals without providing a vision
A recent leadership survey by business coaching service provider The Alternative Board (TAB) found that 46 percent of business owners feel a leader's most important function is "accomplishing goals," followed closely by "setting a vision" (38 percent). TAB vice president David Scarola said that the two actually go hand in hand.
"Neither establishing a vision nor accomplishing goals can stand on its own," Scarola said. "A vision without goals will never be achieved. Goals without a vision will lead to an aimless company direction. Therefore, both must be present and done successfully in order for a company to meet its full potential."
But many leaders have a hard time doing both simultaneously. Scarola said that this iseither because the leaders have not figured out how to establish a set of goals and the associated strategies for realizing the vision, or, because they have goals but are not good at getting them done. Learn which side of the fence you fall on, and work on finding the right balance.
Not trusting employees
The job of a leader is to guide his or her team to accomplish organizational goals. Too often, however, leaders either micromanage their employees or take on more tasks than they can handle. These two things happen for the same reason: Leaders don't trust their teams to do something as well as the leaders themselves can do it.
"Leaders struggle with delegating projects to others, for fear that no one will be able to meet their level of execution," said Max Friedman, founder of Hatchery, an online marketplace and subscription service for artisan cooking ingredients. "This mentality slows progress and ultimately causes team members to feel less invested in the success of a particular initiative. It's important that as a leader, you select a team of people who you truly trust and give them the autonomy to be able to succeed individually."
Building a team of trusted employees begins during the hiring process. Friedman advised looking beyond a candidate's list of credentials and using the interview as an opportunity to get to know that person's character. When you do find a trustworthy employee, make sure that worker hears it straight from you.
"It's important that those who you're delegating to understand not only the importance of the project at hand, but that you're wholeheartedly entrusting them with the success of that project, as well," Friedman said. "This feeling of trust will lead to a more efficient and productive team environment."
Mobile devices have enabled the lines of communication between a manager and his or her staff to remain open long after everyone leaves the office. Being connected 24-7 has become a hallmark of the modern workforce, but is it always the best way to operate?
"[Connectivity] allows managers to provide feedback on the go and never let a small decision stand in the way of progress," said Nicholas Thorne, CEO of digital badge platform basno and co-founder of Bitcoin-powered digital signature service BlockSign. "The problem, however, is that this can lead to an always-connected, omnipresent approach to leadership that is bad for managers and team members alike."
Thorne noted that leaders should be aware of and understand the full impact 24-7 connectedness has on their teams. Being available at all times can be a big plus, especially if you have remote workers in different time zones, but it can ultimately disempower employees who feel they should also be online 24-7 because their manager is, or believe they need to get their boss's approval on everything.
"Leaders need to be proactive in empowering team members to work decisively," Thorne told Business News Daily. "Just because project management tools, instant messaging, email, etc. allow a manager to participate in every minute decision that gets made does not mean that that's good for everyone involved. Communicate clearly to set consistent expectations, [and] be quick to tell people, 'I trust your judgment.'"
All leaders will eventually face the danger of getting stuck in their ways. The current way of doing things may be working, but it's important not to let yourself — or your team — grow stagnant.
"The biggest threat to a successful business is becoming static, and losing a desire for innovation," said Liz Elting, co-CEO of business language services firm TransPerfect. "How do we continue to motivate and reinvent ourselves in order to inspire our employees to continue to create innovative and enthusiastic solutions?"
The best thing you can do for your team as a leader is communicate and instill a clear sense of why you're doing what you do, Elting said. That company mission will likely lose credibility without continued innovation, and reminding the organization of its purpose will motivate you to collaborate and grow.
To stay adaptive and innovative, leaders also need to listen to feedback from anyone who has a stake in the business, including clients.
"Their feedback is the most valuable piece of information to the success of your company," Elting said. "Make it a top priority to not only solicit feedback from them, but [also] decipher that feedback, and act upon it."
Needing to be liked
No bosses want their staff members to hate them, but as a leader, your top priority isn't to make friends with your team. Leaders are people first, and it's natural that they want to be liked, Scarola said. But the need to be in everyone's good favor can sometimes cloud solid business judgment.
"A common mistake with new managers and new business owners is that they make decisions that are popular, which are often not the best decisions for the business," Scarola said. "[Leaders] need to sometimes make unpopular decisions. That comes with the territory. Employees cannot put themselves in the leader's shoes and do not have the perspective that the leader has. Therefore, if a leader makes an unpopular decision and does not take the time to explain it to employees, the employees will jump to the wrong conclusion about their motivations."
Instead of trying to be well-liked among your employees, seek instead to be understood and respected. Learn how to communicate openly and frequently with your team, and always keep staff members in loop about the reason behind any decisions, popular or not.
"The best leaders have learned that if they make the right decisions for their business, even if unpopular, and also take the time to explain their reasoning, they will earn the respect of their employees," Scarola said. "In the long run, this is the best outcome a leader can aspire to."