Have you ever made mistakes as a leader? I know I have. Read on to learn about some of mine and how you might avoid them.
The worst mistake I made early on in leadership was that I felt I had to have constant control of the people and environment where I was working. And by having this type of control and people looking to me for all the solutions, I came off as thinking I might be the smartest one in the room. I had many years of experience across a range of topics, but thinking you might be the smartest person in the room is definitely a sign of ego kicking in.
If you are in a situation where everyone defers to the leader for solutions you will eventually start to come off as arrogant, and you miss the opportunity to work on becoming A Leader Worth Following. When you think that you already know everything, you don’t understand that different people need different types of leadership to bring out their best. If you try to be a one size fits all leader, you will miss opportunities for delegating, directing, coaching, and developing different people within your team.
Being A Leader Worth Following requires you to be able to adapt to your team, instead of them adapting to you. If you are self-focused on your own capabilities, you won’t see others’ potential. Your leadership style may need to change to better serve the people you work with. Adapting your leadership based on their needs is truly serving your people. Using a one-size fits all approach may result in misreading people and situations. Misreading is a common issue among leaders, as well, and one that I have also personally struggled with.
Misreading people, or situations, can be very difficult and create churn and grit in the gears. If we think that we can solve everyone’s problems, then as a leader we will become very frustrated because sometimes people don’t need ideas and suggestions to solve their problems. Rather a supportive leader to help them find their own path.
I think about my early years as a leader, and I remember people telling me about their problems and challenges and, I felt like I had a responsibility as their leader to fix everything. But that is not the case.
I believe that as a leader when people have problems, our first job is to help make sure that the problem that they are seeing is the real problem. Helping someone discover the core issue is helping them discover their own solutions. Helping others see problems and challenges more clearly will help you be more successful as a leader.
If as the leader you are solving the problem for them and telling them what to do then the people you work with will only be as good as you and your solutions, so you end up eroding their autonomy away. Autonomy or competence is an important need that we all strive to have.
My friend Susan Fowler is a master of Self-Determination Theory and an author of some of my favorite leadership books. She has researched the science behind how to optimally motivate people. Helping people maintain and grow their autonomy, and the feeling of competence is one way to help them achieve lasting and high-quality motivation. Being a leader that helps people grow and learn to find their own solutions while helping enhance their motivational outlook is one aspect of becoming A Leader Worth Following.