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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

10 Things Leaders Can’t Do

In leadership, we are always thinking about what we need to do. We go to classes, we read books and we try to get the leadership do’s down. Today, let us approach the subject from the standpoint of things leaders can’t do.

In my experience of working, developing and coaching leaders, at least a couple of these are always present. No person is the perfect human being or the perfect leader, there is always another level in which to proceed. We must always be developing and sharpening our leadership acumen. Review the following list and pinpoint your areas of improvement.

10 Things Leaders Can’t Do

1. Make everyone happy

The truth is, no one can do this and happiness is up to each individual. Leaders should always be trying to make things better than they are, always improving the current conditions as best they can. This will not make everyone happy, as people generally are looking for their best self-interest, which is not always aligned with the greater good.

2. Sidestep important issues

Leaders sometimes avoid things which should be dealt with quicker. Important issues do not disappear, they just get bigger and worse. It’s better to address them, at least in some pro-active way as soon as possible.

3. Not follow through with people

People will not take being ignored well. When leaders fail to follow-through, it deteriorates the trust factor. Reliability in your words and actions is a big component to inspire and build trust, therefore doing the opposite is a huge trust-killer.

4. Assume everyone supports you

Leaders who assume support are not having enough deep conversations with people to uncover thoughts, feelings, ideas and opinions. The easy way is to retreat to your safe cocoon and believe everyone thinks you are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

5. Assume everyone understands

Anyone who has ever had kids has special insight into this. Human beings are human beings, no matter how old they are. People who have raised children know one thing, you must repeat yourself a lot. Ditto in organizations.

6. Avoid conflict (it never goes away)

Conflict is healthy. Conflict exists when people have different ideas and opinions or when hard decisions are at hand. Is this a day-to-day proposition? Yes, it is! Avoiding conflict stifles growth, increases staff turnover and leads everyone to huge frustration. The results of avoiding conflict are far worse than dealing with it and resolving it.

7. Act as if you have all the answers

Are you the kind of leader with such omnipotence everyone is waiting on you to hand down the next version of the Ten Commandments? Jim Collins calls this the “genius with a thousand helpers” culture. Emerging talented leaders will become frustrated with this scenario; they will leave for a more participative and consultative leadership culture until  the King retires or leaves.

8. Allow friendship to derail progress

Yes, sometimes leaders are so close with or enamored with certain people, they either don’t see their shortcomings or they choose to ignore them. Everyone sees it, but you! Or if you do, it’s possible you simply may not care. Almost everyone can tell you of a situation they have been in where this is evident, whether it’s in a work situation, on a committee, etc. If this exists with more than two people, it’s commonly called a clique. Nuff said.

9. Refuse to let go of control

Everything you smother dies. Some leaders just can not allow talented people enough room to make plans and decisions on their own. In a lot of cases, their certainty need and dear of failure is so high and true self-esteem so low, they have to have their hands in everything. This wet-blanket approach smothers the passion and fire which could exist in talented people who need chances to grow, many times through failure. Face it, developing people is work and it’s a fine line between letting go of control and vacating all accountability, but rather staying engaged, teaching, coaching and encouraging.

10. Live in the past

Organizations are constantly changing. Workforces are changing generationally. Technology is always evolving. Globalization is increasing. How can we afford to not engage new ideas and new ways of doing things? Those who have great futures are those who are creating the great future they want to live in.

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