Whether you're a seasoned vet or a newbie, making a mistake as a leader is inevitable. But what separates a great leader from a dysfunctional one is self-awareness, or the ability to identify, learn and grow from our strengths and weaknesses. Leaders who remain self-aware avoid repeating their mistakes, becoming more effective leaders.
In the daily hustle and bustle, though, it's easy to overlook the leadership mistakes you've made. Here are six of the most common I've noticed throughout my career -- and how you can avoid making them yourself.
1. Not realizing the importance of emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is something I feel everyone should work on -- not just leaders. Those who possess EI are able to keep their emotions under control and be more empathetic toward others. Emotional intelligence goes hand in hand with communication skills, which is one of the most important areas for leaders to develop.
Ultimately, by enhancing your EI, you're in a better position to recognize your teammates' accomplishments and address any problems or concerns they may have. It will also guide you toward creating a more positive work environment because you'll be able to resolve conflicts rather than avoid them.
You can increase your emotional intelligence by reflecting on your own emotions, asking for others' perspectives and pausing before reacting. This can take a lot of practice, but the payoff is worth it.
2. Inadequately delegating work
One of the most common mistakes I've seen from leaders is not being able to balance a hands-off approach with micromanaging. Some leaders simply can't give up control; others just know how to effectively delegate and empower others.
There's no one way to rectify this. But you can start by admitting that there are tasks unworthy of your time. They're not unimportant tasks -- they're just not in your wheelhouse, or they're pulling you away from higher-level strategic responsibilities. Even if you perceive yourself as a jack-of-all-trades, there are assignments that could be handed off to more experienced team members, like bookkeeping-related tasks or social media marketing campaigns. Delegation can also help less experienced employees develop new skills (and occasionally even discover a superpower).
After you've identified the tasks you want to delegate, along with the person to delegate them to, clearly state your desired outcomes and expectations. This avoids confusion and misunderstandings.
Besides lessening your workload, delegation encourages ownership among your team. Not only is this one of the best ways to keep people motivated, but it also shows that you trust them to do these tasks well.
3. Failing to give, and receive, feedback
As a leader, you don't want to discourage creativity and innovation within your organization. You also need to be willing to embrace change and listen to diverse opinions. Finding opportunities to grow and improve is crucial to not only your success, but also your company's.
That's a lot to take in, and it's part of being in a leadership position. However, if you solicit feedback from others, this process isn't as overwhelming. Feedback pinpoints where you excel and where you could stand to improve. In fact, research has found that the best leaders ask for more feedback.
You should also give your teammates constructive feedback so they can become more effective in their positions. It can help you discover ways that they're motivated, such as which types of rewards or training they value.
4. Feeling unfocused and uninspired
Vision is absolutely essential. It's what keeps you passionate, focused, and inspired. It's needed to keep your business progressing, and it enables you to set goals and expectations for your team, as well as hold people accountable.
If you feel your vision is lacking, refer back to your mission statement. Think about ways you can align tasks with the goals you've set. Reflect on past successes -- why did you want to become a leader in the first place? Sometimes, you have to take a step back from your business by unplugging for the weekend or taking a vacation. When you return, you'll likely have a new outlook -- and new ideas on how you can improve as a leader.
5. Not leading by example
Over the weekend, some family members came to my house. During one conversation, I crossed my arms. In the corner of my eye, I noticed one of my children was mirroring my body language. The moral of this story? Even when you don't think they are, your children are always watching you.
The same can be said of employees. For example, if they catch you gossiping or getting short with people, they may think this is acceptable behavior -- possibly even rewarded. If you're frequently absent or arriving late to meetings, they may believe it's OK for them to do the same.
You need to lead by example -- even when you don't think anyone is watching. Follow the rules and guidelines you expect everyone else to adhere to, and treat others with respect if you ever want your employees to do the same.
6. Saying you don't have time
We all struggle with time management. After all, there are only so many waking hours in a day to get everything done. But to be perfectly honest, we all have at least five minutes every day to help employees out. For example, if someone asks you a question via email or Slack, I'm positive it would take less than a minute to respond. If you don't have the answer, you could at least refer her to a shared resource or another person likely to have the answer.
For more in-depth conversations, share your calendar so the person can pick a day and time to meet with you.
Obviously, interruptions can be disruptive to your productivity. That's why I suggest blocking out specific times throughout the day to check messages or notifications. Take chunks of time back, and devote them to your team. It's a simple way to build rapport, and it shows that you value them enough to make time in your busy schedule for what they need.
Mistakes should be seen as opportunities to grow. That doesn't mean that you have to commit every single one, however. Be aware of your -- and others' -- blunders so you know what you need to not do to become the strongest leader possible.