The Three Most Dangerous Mistakes Leaders Make
It’s easy to learn from mistakes when you’re inventing light bulbs, but leaders work with people not bulbs.
- Waste resources.
- Squander opportunities.
- Misuse talent.
- Hurt people.
The worst part of making mistakes is hurting others.
The three most dangerous mistakes leaders make:
Patrick Lencioni was asked to present at the Global Leadership Summit 2014 (#GLS2014) on the biggest mistakes leaders make. Here’s what he said.
#1. Becoming a leader for the wrong reason.
“Most people want to be known as the person who changed the world. That’s a very dangerous reason to become a leader. People should want to become a leader because they want to sacrifice themselves for the good of others even when they know there is no ROI.” Patrick Lencioni at (#GLS2014)
To aspire to lead is to aspire to serve.
“I’m tired of hearing about servant leadership, because I don’t think there is any other kind.” Lencioni #GLS2014
#2. Failing to embrace vulnerability.
- I don’t think you can be too vulnerable as a leader.
- People don’t want leaders to be perfect, they want leaders to be human.
- When you as a leader can be genuinely butt naked with people, then they will walk through walls of fire for you.
#3. Making leadership too important.
“Ask your family – do you think that I think my job is more important than you?” Lencioni #GLS2014
The greatest loss of leadership is losing yourself to your role.
Which leadership mistakes are most dangerous?
What other dangerous leadership mistakes can you add to the list?
*I’m attending the Global Leadership Summit 2014. This post interrupts the Dictionary for Leaders series.
I see Leaders often make the tragic mistake of thinking they are communicating enough because they conduct All-hands con-calls once a month and send an email about as often. Leaders should be telling personal stories at least once a week if not more often on an internal publishing platform (subscribe ONLY, not blast/junk emails) that speaks to the concerns of the employees. Concerns that are gleaned from on 1-on-1 conversations, not surveys or discussions with managers who only tell them what they think the leader wants to hear.
And as you mention, those personal stories should show vulnerability and cite where the leader has goofed but learned, or points to an area where s/he knows they need to improve.
Thanks James. I get the sense that teams need to connect with leaders/managers.
You can’t beat the one on one. I’m trying to have more of them. As you say, share personal stories. I’m learning to do that. My inclination is to not make it about me. Cheers!
Sometimes personal stories strike a chord when they are all about “the situation” or “the other person” and the fact that you were part if it is incidental. That sets the stage for the bigger picture and makes it easier to relate the message to a variety of situations.
Point 3 was and continues to be the point I struggle with. To personally succeed is one of the basic drivers for most males. I’m not saying that females don’t want to succeed, only that a man’s job (and success at it) seems to inherently be built into his feeling of well-being. To juggle that base characteristic with family, well, that sometimes just gets lost to us men. We think that supporting the family in a financial way is equal to supporting the family in an emotional way, and that doesn’t always sit well with the rest of the family. It is a difficult balance that can only be achieved by recognizing that it exists.
Thanks D.R. You bring an interesting take on this. In our culture, expectations are different for men and women. It’s more acceptable for a man to be over-committed to work. In some cultures it’s desirable.
D.R. Thomas – very profound and very true. I think (from a woman’s perspective) the fact that we recognize our differences is a great place to start the conversation. We “feel” our work and familiy responsibilities differently than men do – I don’t ever see that changing and that is okay. My personal philosophy is this, I truly belief that leadership at work thrives when there is a balance of ego, mind and heart at the helm. That’s a whole conversation all by itself.
Try this: take the time during your commute home to clear your mind of your day and when you get home, “take your hat off a the door”. When you walk through the door you are a husband, a partner, a friend, a father. Figure out what that means to you and your family and you may find the balance you are looking for.
Dangerous leadership mistake? Mistaking apparent (but false) loyalty for talent and commitment to the goals of the organization. I’m sorry that sounds so negative. But I once watched quite an actress manipulate leaders with what appeared to be loyalty. Her real goal was personal gain. Other committed team members could see it clearly but the leaders could not. The leaders are now gone. She is not. The performance continues for new leaders. Her personal gain continues. Maya Angelou said, “Sooner or later a person will show you who they really are. Believe them the first time.”
Thanks Dauna. You make me think about the blindness that happens when we HOPE that someone will perform or seems to be highly committed when they aren’t. Our hopes may make us reluctant to see the truth. Manipulators use that hope to get their way.
Another down side of this is it demoralizes teams and then we begin to hold back. In the end we hurt ourselves.
I agree and appreciate your insight. People want to become leader for wrong reasons. And I think this is the most dangerous mistake they make. I have seen people claiming leaders when they attain a particular position. They forget that attaining position is not leadership. They take all possible deviant routes to get position. In the process they do not create positive impact. They create toxic impact. They make others to suffer and lose. No one wins but the fact is that they only win. And they claim, they are leaders. This is the great grave mistake they make. Many times, I do feel that they do not know what do they mean by leadership. Many times people confuse between leadership and position. They perceive attaining highest position by any means is only leadership. And in the process, they damage more than they benefit.
The other mistake organisational leaders make is to perceive them bigger than their roles. They overestimate their worth and underestimate their roles. It means they try to seek attention and appreciation. They believe they are bigger than anyone else. This infuses a sense of ego. The ego create distance with others. When they develop their self-importance they start developing attachment to the position. They do all games and politics to retain in the position. Unfortunately, they still believe that they are leaders.
Thanks Ajay. Ego/arrogance is at the root of all three dangerous mistakes. Anytime we put our own welfare ahead of everyone else we are heading down the wrong path. Challenging
Absolutely! I frequently remind people to “check your ego at the door”. It doesn’t belong in the leadership arena.
Want to become great? Become a servant to all.
Thanks Pete…nailed it.
My philosophy is that real egoless ness is an important quality. It loops back to the servant leader. Respect is given to the team members. It’s not about the leader, but the objectives ( which would personally include a balanced life where family has a vital role- as team members families will also).
When a person takes on any role to feed their ego, they are not able to focus on the true objectives if the tasks they are charged with
Thanks dlwteacher. Glad you shared your insights. The idea that when we are feeding our own ego we can’t serve others is “too” clear. 😉
One of my thoughts to possibly add to the list, is for leaders or anyone to always keep in mind that life is all about relationships and to connect is to help the other person or people connect with me, you, whomever is the “leader”. I agree with Patrick Lencioni’s point there is no other type of “leadership” except servant leadership, by the mere definition of what a “leader” is to be, what a leader does, and how people respond. My, off-the-cuff definition of “leading” is to influence others in a positive way that they would choose to follow, join, being engaged in the pursuit of “something” with the leader and others.
Thanks kclinpa. Glad you added the importance of connecting. We usually think of connecting with others…you expand my thinking to be sure to help people connect with me.
Very simple, very powerful and the last one is easy to forget.
Thanks Ben. True.
Good morning Dan;
Dan I have to say this strikes the core of leadership and ranks among my ‘Leadership Freak’ favorites. Today’s blog reveals truthfully and honestly what is the foundation of a successful, efficiant, and most importantly (Respected) Leader. “Solid inter-personal communication skills, sa love and desire to work with people while helping them become their best. Like the ‘Circus Ring Leader’, The effective leader knows his people well enough to fit each perfectly intom the job respondsability that matches their skill level and talent. They know the the very best of communicators realize good active listening skills are far more important than the tongue of a ‘Slick-talkin Used Car Salesman’. No one ever learned a thing while flapping their gums. And heres the tuffest one, (Transparency). You were positioned as a Leader for your potential to inspire others to not only ‘get the job done’, but to do so with gusto & a never say die attitude that THEY see in YOU. And lastly, evry good leader knows he needs (Go-2) people when the going gets tuff. The tuff part is, if your not a (Go-2 Leader) that can be counted on, don’t count on others to pull together and come to your rescue when you need them.
People skiils are becoming more and more important as we continue into the 20th century. Trouble is, organizations, (including the one I work for) give very little to no concifderation for what I beleive IS the ‘Successeful Leaders’ greatest asset. Instead, many organization promote out of nothing short of shear Nepotism. Again, mine included. “You get what you pay for”. If you want to blow the competition outa the water, START PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST. For one thing you’ll see dramatic improvements in your bottom line, & oh yea, IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO…
Thanks SGT. “Putting people first” captures the essential leadership priority. Customers are people. Teammates are people. Leaders are people… Put people first.
Sorry for the type-o’s Dan. I didn’t proof read,, (obviously), & theres NO spell-check option.
“I blame it on Arthritic Fingers” !!! LOL
Leonard Cohen wrote, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s where the Light gets in …”
To serve is a great attitude – it contains the highest form of intelligence and wisdom.
Start your intuition and strong it. Feel what moves people and questioning. Looking for a space in you – delete all (old) programs and feel the emotions.
If I am unsure – I ask directly. After an application (project) it’s worth it to call the team together again and to reminisce, which was good – what was wrong, where there is need for improvement. Feedback can always strengthen the team, because I take every detail seriously.
Communication occurs on many levels.
To follow your intuition and trust – strengthens its presence and openness (mobility) and can decide cordial. Leadership can succeed only succeed with the team spirit.
Service is a labor of love in everything in life. The feedback can only in the same sense – provide a truthful answer. If I am aware of this law,
can I discover the error in doubt. Logically, even if some things sometimes seem paradoxical.
The human factor always contains imperfect perfections and of course, some reactions have their own dynamic. We are unique beings. But many things can be planned ahead – in another, we must learn to be more flexible. Not everything we need to take it personally, but a second Blicj always worthwhile. What was today, tomorrow is already turned in the change.
If people are not in their love, not only love but also of awareness, compassion, real presence, knowledge, energy and willingness to serve is lacking. The leak will increase and
fall within themselves together. The only question is when? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link – but only as strong as the largest.
Of his meta-levels are aware – activate the inner observer!
Intuition is a divine gift.
We have more wisdom in us, if we trust. Trust is a unique safety and the best foundation – in addition to love. Love what you do. If this is the basis, thus increasing the welfare
and with their knowledge and wisdom, I hope so. 🙂
The greed for power and control for me, is the most dangerous type to lead,
in addition to self-esteem and the thought of being a genius!
Thank you for extended insight!
Joy is. Beate
Questions bring me closer to my goal.
I like how you write and enjoy reading your comments.
“Keep on keep’n on”!
Steve – how lovely, thank you very much for your friendly words. <3
It´s to be aware of it or we make a conscious decision –
the perpetual search for the great secrets behind things and the mystery of our own being, to get a significant place.
The point is not exactly what a person believes – what matters is rather
what follows from the faith. Follows the good? Have we learned to love?
I think is important to love, because it makes us even happier – richer – our life deeper!
Pablo Picasso once said: "First I had to stop the search, than I could find"
Happy weekend – enjoy your life. Beate
Cool stuff – hard work, without getting a feeling of fear, to open yourself more and more for transparency. This is the way of clearness and respect – at last the way of a teacher 🙂
A leader’s hubris to the point where no one else a can shine. Arrogant leaders who feel entitled because of their position. They have no humility and empathy is considered a wimp’s trait by them.
One of the most powerful positive leadership experience that has happened to me was when I was 25 and worked in the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (Federal Government). I was an audiovisual technician there. One day the Auditor General and I got on the same elevator with me. Being younger I was intimidated by his stature but he made me feel like his equal when he struck up a conversation with me. He was humble and friendly. Today I try to follow in his foot steps by being humble and friendly in my leadership style.
Thanks Michael. Love the story. I neglected to add to this post that Lencioni, like you, believes pride is at the heart of the dangerous mistakes leaders make. Right on!
A ladder has rungs for a reason. Eventually, we all have to climb back down. If you’re doing it right, people will be happy to see you no matter what step your on.
I really enjoy Patrick Lencioni’s work as well as the work you do Dan to bring it all together.
Thanks Redge. Great seeing you here! I’ve heard people talk about the problem of going down the ladder. You meet the people you stepped on. But, servant leaders don’t step on people for personal gain. Great add.
Really love this post today Dan – thank you!
Thanks Diana. A short note is great to read. Cheers
Again, we are back to the issue of maturity. Without wholeness and integrity, we have the blind leading the blind, which is no leadership a all. Dan, I always enjoy your posts.
Thanks Carol. “The blind leading the blind” opens a new door to my imagination. Plus you, suggest that maturity is about wholeness and integrity… powerful.
I think lying to customers, staff and suppliers is pretty dangerous.
Not that I have ever lied for personal gain you understand.
Thanks Al. One lie can destroy credibility. Once credibility is lost, how can we lead or serve?
It’s a long way back. Jordan Belfort is an interesting case study. Good vs bad economics in play again 🙂
Assessing individuals by your personal standards, when they may not have had the same training opportunities.
Allowing your emotions to overshadow your logic.
Taking things personal.
Demanding respect without giving it.
Individuals of poor character.
Laurence M. Blocker, Sr.
Director of Human Resources
Kadima Security Services, Inc
16661 Ventura Blvd., Suite 608
Encino, CA 91436
***We have moved. Please note our new address***
Thanks Laurence. I’ve made all those mistakes! Assessing others through our lens and expecting them to be like us is way too common. Shifting the focus from us to them helps. Glad you shared your insights.
Cause The Leaders Mainly Forgets The Golden Facts,,, ” Power Is Not Forever : !
Thanks Stop…that should keep us humble.
There appears to be some healthy tension between Mr. Lencioni’s comments that: “People should want to become a leader because they want to sacrifice themselves for the good of others even when they know there is no ROI.” and “Ask your family – do you think that I think my job is more important than you?” The sacrifice mentioned in the first quote has its limits. I suspect, for most of us, it would take truck loads of courage to ask our families that question! I have growing respect for Patrick Lencioni.
Thanks Mark. You’re making me squirm. 🙂
Leaders work with people not bulbs. Couldn’t have said it better.
Glad you caught that reference to Edison and the quote about mistakes. Best
Do you remember that Charles Barkley commercial back in 1993 where he proclaimed, “I am not a role model.”? The problem with the statement is that regardless of Barkley’s desire to be a role model, he was. The series of life choices he made led him to the NBA where he had a high profile and much influence. In the same, Lincioni said that the mistake is choosing to be a leader for the wrong reason. I don’t think anyone chooses to be a leader. Everyone is a leader. Perhaps if you’re a shut-in without the internet you may be exempt… but just like Barkley, our live choices don’t determine IF we are a leader… our choices determine what kind of followers we will have.
Not that I want to put words in Lincioni’s mouth, but at surface level, I can’t shake this thought.
Thanks for posting.
Thanks Dave. What I take from your comment is we should be aware of our influence and not make excuses when we use it poorly. We have responsibility to others. In a world that admires those who live for themselves and get away with it, your ideas are a big challenge. Thanks
I would love to see some more commentary around the idea of vulnerability. Brené Brown has a wonderful TED talk on the subject but I find many leaders are not able to step into that space. Thoughts?