As we finish up this year’s emphasis on “the mistakes that leaders make,” I’d like to remind you the purpose of this series has not been to fix your every fault … but to increase your awareness of faults that are most damaging to your effectiveness as a leader. Armed with awareness, you’re more likely to realize when you’ve slipped into a bad habit, or taking short-cuts, and be warned before you fail.
Because we often think of leaders as the ones responsible for making decisions, we watch what they do. Closely. If they don’t address a situation, or if they’re hesitant to decide, we hold that against them. When they do make decisions, we decide if we agree with them, or not.
It’s a vicious circle of judgment. The leader exercises his/her judgment. Others judge the leader.
In the Fault Lines Study, we learned many leaders suffer from poor evaluative skills – which affects their decisions – which causes others to question their judgment. They just don’t do very well when it comes to “sizing things up.”
Poor evaluative skills fall into two major areas:
- A leader should be able to distinguish good performers from poor. Putting a poor performer on a pedestal kills the morale of the group.
- A leader should be able to see potential. Failing to discover the talents of the individuals on the team, and bring those talents out, leads to a lethargic response to the leader’s plans.
- A leader should be able to make up their own mind. Prejudging employees based on their appearance, or other people’s opinions, clouds the leader’s understanding of their worth and capability.
- A leader should value “process.” Being too influenced by the first thing they hear vs. digging deeper to get more facts puts the leader’s decisions in peril.
- A leader should get others involved. When leaders fail to get input from others, and lean too heavily on their own perceptions, they limit their understanding of the issue, and limit the range of alternatives from which to choose.
- A leader should show patience. When they decide too quickly they often fail to consider all of the consequences of their course of action. Thus, they’re surprised in the future, and look foolish in hindsight.
Poor evaluative skills reflect badly on the leader.
Avoid these mistakes by believing more deeply in your people, becoming more interested in their insights, and more thorough in your analysis.
Coming in January, we’ll look at “the most important things a leader should know” through my brand new “Focal Points Leadership Study.” I hope you’ll join us.
For now, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
– Jerry Strom
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This article is based on the *’Fault Lines Study: The Biggest Mistakes a Leader Can Make,’ copyright 2013, by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Find the Research Abstract, and request our primary findings paper, ‘The Listening Leader,’ which includes ‘Listening Strategies for the Executive Suite,’ at http://www.jerrystrom.com/research/js_fault-lines.html .