There is an age-old argument as to whether it is possible to teach leadership or not. Many would argue that it is not possible to teach leadership. Many others would argue that leaders are born and not made.
I believe that you can teach the principles of leadership. However, that teaching in and of itself is not sufficient. The principles, and the tools, techniques, and tips that align with them, need to be practiced in everyday situations. In my experience over the past forty years or so that is where the problems with leadership training begin.
Understanding the practice of leadership comes about through experimentation. Through learning from observation and making mistakes. However, learning by mistake is only fully useful if there are a meaningful reflection and a supportive mentor or coach on hand to guide you.
Unfortunately, I am aware that not everyone has access to either a mentor or a coach. So, by way of self-help, here are ten common mistakes that aspiring leaders make. I hope you can reflect on them and identify where you might improve.
- Lack dynamism, energy, and enthusiasm. They rarely volunteer for a new role or responsibility and, when given one, often see it as a burden.
- Think mediocre performance is acceptable. They will struggle to meet targets or key objectives. They will invariably blame other people or difficult processes for their failures.
- Lack clear vision and purpose. In fact, they are happier doing, even if badly, than thinking.
- Tend to be poor decision-makers. Their judgment is suspect and, again, if mistakes occur, they are quick to blame others.
- See other leaders as competitors, rather than potential collaborators. They will consequently act independently, even though this may not be the wise course of action.
- Do not walk the talk. Do as I say, not as I do is their implicit message.
- Resist change and any form of new ideas, innovation, and process. They will be more obvious in this if the change suggested is made by a peer or subordinate.
- Do not learn from their mistakes. They will not reflect on difficult situations and will not derive learning from them.
- Have limited interpersonal skills. They will be the ones that you are surprised to find are seen as leaders. They will demonstrate poor communication and relational skills and will seem distant, cold, and self-obsessed.
- Do not develop themselves, nor do they develop others. Their focus is on maintaining their status quo, to the exclusion of all others.
In my experience, poor leaders are unfortunately plentiful across most organizations. Reversing the ten actions detailed about would go some way to redressing the balance. Finding an effective mentor or coach would also help greatly.
Thinking about my post, I wonder what you experience? Do you encounter many poor leaders? If so, how do you help them to become better leaders? How do you help yourself become a better leader?
I would be interested to hear your thoughts and comments. I am also available to help you if needed, please just ask.