Would-be leaders can limit their effectiveness by clinging to self-defeating actions and attitudes. In your rush to succeed, it’s easy to overreach and alienate potential allies.
Avoid these four common traps to strengthen your ability to lead over the long term:
1. Forcing new behaviors into old systems. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with new ways to motivate and manage people. But if the overall system isn’t aligned with the new behaviors, results can peter out.
Consider a compensation structure that rewards sales volume. If you announce a campaign to improve customer service that involves employees spending more time advising clients by phone, it can backfire unless you also modify the compensation system.
2. Deflecting responsibility for mishaps. When errors occur on your watch, step up and take responsibility. Shifting blame onto others risks undermining your stature as a respected leader.
Even if you believe you’re blameless, identify lessons you’ve learned that can apply going forward. Frame the situation in positive language and accept criticism directed at you.
3. Getting mired in the past. If something worked a year ago, that doesn’t mean it’ll keep working amid changing circumstances. Don’t get wedded to ways of doing things that become obsolete.
If new information challenges your assumptions about what’s worked in the past, examine it with an open mind. Be willing to replace old processes with newer, more effective ones.
4. Treating all goals as equal. Leaders prioritize well and explain why certain goals matter more than others.
— Adapted from Beyond the Job Description, Jesse Sostrin, Palgrave Macmillan.