Mistakes that budding leaders keep making in tough situations

I would like to call myself  a bit of  ”behavior, psychology Analyst”.  I love studying my own and my peers’ behavior in tough situations. There are certain things I think I have learned after making a 100 mistakes. Would like to share some of those here.

Following are the kind of mistakes that I have myself made and learned from them:

  1. Not spending enough time thinking, reviewing, brainstorming on what should be done to make things better. Instead working all day, all night just to get things done. They call it the difference between leadership and management. Leadership is about doing the right things and management is doing things the right way. As you can see, leadership is what usually makes a big difference in what we can achieve. We all tend to get busy into the tasks at hand. You must understand that these tasks will never finish and they should not stop you from taking time to “think”.You can’t imagine what wonders you can do by taking a 30 minute break, thinking about what is happening and how you can innovate to find simple solutions to tough looking problems. For this to work, you need to believe that there is EXISTS a solution which make the current situation untangle. Keep doing this exercise every single day. Think about whats happening and see how you can make it better. I have personally achieved a lot by following this practice religiously.
  2. Taking so much on your own self that you end up working through many weekends and yet fail to finish off all the work. As a result, failing to meet expectations and this goes into a vicious loop. You need to realize that you can scale to only a limited extent un-less you start delegating, unless you get a team for you, un-less you start devoting more time thinking about bigger problems rather than small but important looking tactical tasks. This also means that you should know your limit beyond which you can certainly explore but do not want to make a commitment to other stakeholders. I have seen myself, many friends, colleagues of mine getting into this trap.
  3. Get frustrated when your peers, other stake-holders do not give their 100% and letting the situation get to your mind. Learn to smile :). Learn to smile when things don’t happen they way you wanted them to happen.  A member of another team is not meeting his commitments, someone from your team is making funny excuses and not finishing his task in time or with the right quality; don’t get bogged down. Relax. This project might be really close to your heart, but others do not really feel for it so much. That is all okay. You must know that there are only a few at the top and many many at the bottom. There is a reason why there a few at the top. Learn to handle your frustration if you want to become a great leader. You need to stay objective and motivated no matter what, only then you can give your best.
  4. Getting biased in your decision making, especially for the current project, task at hand. This is the worst consequence of #3.  Never let this happen. If you think you are not feeling good, take a break and delay the decision by a bit.
  5. Writing emotional emails, replying to negative looking emails with an emotional state of mind. Emotional, blaming emails are killers. They can trigger a really bad situation. They have the power to upset anyone and everyone and the worst part is that they are “written communication” so they can become of a piece of evidence against your bad temperament, also emails never seem to work in rectifying such situations.  To fix a messed up situation, talk over phone, talk face to face. NEVER use emotional, angry emails. If email is the only option, then be 100% OBJECTIVE, the emotional quotient of your email should be zero. Very bland, black and white.
  6. Expressing your discontent to your team members in a way which can bring everyone’s morale down. If you are in a resource crunch situation, then the worst thing you can do is demotivate your team members. Instead of working through the weekends, they ll end up leaving at 5pm on a weekday where as you would be burning your midnight oil every week day as well as weekends.  Your team members are your most valuable asset. Keep them super-motivated. Talk positive. Tell them how this project is going to help your team the most.
  7. Creating negative images of colleagues you cant get away from. I think this is kind of self-implicit. If you create a negative image, it would become hard for you to deal with them in your future engagements. This would limit your own capability.
  8. Not paying enough attention to your health. You know what I am talking about. Skipping meals, not getting enough sleep, eating too much junk. This way, you would not be able to scale for a long time. May be a month ( or more, less depending on ur stamina) and your health is down and your productivity is gone. Do you want your health getting in the way of your success? Take good care of yourself.
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2 thoughts on “Mistakes that budding leaders keep making in tough situations

  1. Good list.

    It is unfortunate that there is the distinction between “leadership” and “management”, but it is real and I see it happening a lot. To me leadership is more an attitude than anything else – just because people expect from your job title you should be focused on efficiently managing your reports, does not have to stop you from spending time thinking about what is right. Even the most junior resource can be a leader.

    I tend to expect from managers they should think like leaders – which frequently leads to disappointment and some risk of me ending up in the #3 scenario on your list.

    Often the “leaders” who have a lot of “managers” reporting to them could gain a lot of leverage by having all those reports also help them think about improvements and what is right, helping them develop into becoming leaders.

    1. @thesowhat, thanks for the feedback!

      Yes, I totally agree on how the most junior folks can be leaders and I have seen this happening especially when they start seeing huge gaps and want to do something about it.

      At the same time, I think the habit/attitude of leading also depends on the culture of the organization and what is highly appreciated, rewarded. An appraisal process which emphasizes on innovation to make things simpler, better can drive managers into leaders. I believe, most of us have leaders hidden inside, its about the right process, the right push which can make that hidden leader come out.

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