When you are in a position of responsibility, leadership landmines are everywhere. One misstep can land you in an embarrassing, humiliating and costly trap. The harder you try to rectify things, the worse things become. While some crises are unavoidable, many landmines can be anticipated and sidestepped. Just a little thought in advance can steer you down a safer and more productive leadership path. Take the quick quiz and consider the following five simple concepts:
- Keep your foot out of your mouth. Listen before you speak. You never can truly retrieve what you have said. You may explain or clarify your comments, or even retract your statements, but the initial impact of a misspoken word will remain. A wrong assumption or casual phrase can set off a devastating chain reaction. Listen to others. Ask questions. Understand the concerns and complexities before making a decision.
- Don’t charge into an ambush. Ask before you tell. When you have a plan in mind, ask the “what if” question. Give staff members and stakeholders the opportunity to consider the plan, and share their support or concerns. Not only will you obtain valuable feedback and ideas for improving the plan, but you also are creating “buy-in,” by enabling stakeholders to share ownership of the idea.
- Serve your team, not your ego. Share the glory, take the blame. One of the great demoralizers of staff members is the leader who takes the glory and offsets the blame. Success is a team effort. Make sure your team members are amply recognized for their work. When things don’t go well, take responsibility. As a leader, you have the capability to address the problem. Take responsibility and act to rectify the issue. Throwing your staff under the bus is a recipe for failure.
- Be supportive, not abusive. Praise in public, correct in private. Recognize the successes of your staff and publicly share their accomplishments. Encourage engagement. When correction is needed, keep the issue between you and the individual. Public humiliation causes resentment and embarrassment and demoralizes everyone.
- Follow the rules. Good and reasonable rules are for everyone, including you. Lead by example. “Do what I say, not what I do” is an invitation for trouble.
Leadership success is an art. Leadership by definition involves stepping forward into the unknown, and making decisions for a team. Leadership is risky. But with just a few simple concepts in mind, you can minimize your chances of detonating some of the most common leadership landmines.