Earlier this week, I posted The Ten Commandments of Leadership, so today I'll describe the flip side of the equation: the seven failure-producing, deadly sins that leaders too often commit. Here they are, with my prescriptions for overcoming them.
Ever hear the saying "he's a glutton for punishment"? Well, in the workplace, weak leaders become gluttons for overwork. They overcommit, make everything a number-one priority, and try to fill every waking hour with urgent tasks on an ever-increasing to-do list.
Gluttonous leaders also expect their teams to bite off more than they can ever chew. The team becomes overworked and overstressed. Mistakes increase; team members take sick. Usually the team fails miserably because everyone is miserable.
The cure: Self-discipline. Strong leaders manage time so well that everything important gets done. They show by example that downtime and relaxation are not just allowed but required for anybody to be fully productive.
Everyone already knows that leaders who have affairs with team members create massive resentment and dissent. However, there's another type of lust--the lust for immediate results--that can do even more damage, because it masks itself as enthusiasm.
The lust for immediate results creates a "Ready-Shoot-Aim" mentality. An entire team becomes impatient and ends up spending one half of their time fixing problems they created through hastiness and the other half creating more problems to fix.
The cure: Patience. Strong leaders know that you can't tug on a sapling to make it grow faster. They communicate to their team that outstanding results require not just effort but the passage of enough time so that those efforts bear fruit.
Weak leaders use team members as punching bags and whipping boys. They blow off steam so that they can feel better about themselves while pretending they're goading the team into getting more done.
This style of leadership results in teams where people are afraid to speak their minds. Team members suppress their own anger (the natural response of such abuse) and then pass that abuse along to colleagues and underlings alike.
The cure: Courage. Strong leaders know that the root of wrathful anger is the fear of failure. Rather than foisting their fear upon others, they summon the courage to remain calm in a crisis.
Weak leaders are secretly envious other people's successes and feel secret joy when other people fail. They see themselves in fundamental competition with other leaders and even with their own team members.
Such envy is a root cause of the turf wars, backbiting, and dirty politics that can make any workplace miserable and unproductive. Meanwhile, the poor customers remain on the outside, watching the turmoil and scratching their heads.
The cure: Self-confidence. Strong leaders commit to making their own team successful rather than making the other teams fail. They have the confidence that colleagues and customers alike will recognize the team's and the leader's contributions.
Weak leaders are all about the money. They're obsessed with their bank accounts and love showing everyone how much money they've made. They drive fancy cars and sport pricey watches. And they'll cut corners, ethically and legally, to make sure they stay on top.
Greed leaders create and foster teams of greedy people. They obsess about their salaries and zealously guard their perks. When they see a chance to pocket a little extra on a deal, they recall their leader's "greed is good" attitude and think: "Hey, why not me, too?"
The cure: Entrepreneurism. Strong leaders are all about the vision. They inspire their teams to go beyond their perceived limitations and create something truly amazing. Money follows but it's practically an afterthought.
Workplace sloth is the result of weak leaders who are "all talk and no action." They're too lazy to create an agenda, so meetings are rudderless. They start believing that giving and listening to presentations is productive work.
Slothful leaders attract slothful teams that spend their time jabbering-jawing. Team members become adept at avoiding responsibility lest it get in the way of their "communicating and collaborating."
The cure: Measurement. Strong leaders know that every activity must be measured by the value it creates for a company's customers. Strong leaders make agendas and keep their meetings short.
It's natural to be proud of your accomplishments, but if a leader isn't careful, being proud can mutate into being prideful, a destructive, self-centered emotion. Prideful leaders create their own weakness by secretly believing "I did this all myself."
Prideful leaders alienate team members by taking too much credit for the team's success and foisting blame when things go badly. Prideful leaders demoralize the hard workers who want and deserve praise for their efforts.
The cure: Gratitude. Strong leaders feel and express gratitude, not just to their team but to a society and civilization that's made success possible for more people--leaders and teams alike--than any other in history.