The seven deadly sins of leadership
In the previous post, I wrote about two different types of leadership: inborn leadership and technical leadership. I promised to consider the subject of applying technical leadership in terms of how you should not do. Watching for years how other leaders behave I found out that many of them make mistakes of the same types. So today, I want to write about them.
1. Leadership for the sake of leadership
As I said earlier, leadership is a skill. It requires appropriate and moderate application. However, there are managers who can do irrational things just because they think they should demonstrate their leadership non-stop. For example, when an urgent technical problem requiring quick solutions was occurred, one team member offers a good rational solution. The manager does not accept it, but either offers his/her own less successful solution, or adds confusion with some additional meetings to find alternative solutions. Here, as we see, the first aspect of the perverse understanding of leadership takes place. Many people think that the leader should always be the most active in the decision-making process. Nevertheless, this is not true. There is a huge number of situations where just to approve, to step aside and not to interfere - the best tactic of the leader. Think about it: don't you do too many unnecessary actions to just demonstrate your leadership?
It is very important that the decisions made that affect other people be justified. It is highly desirable that your colleagues/team can see how you came to a definite decision. It is worth to forget solutions like «I want so!»
If your behavior is consistent and the chain of your actions and decisions on the way to the goal is traceable for others - you will not only strengthen your leadership positions, but will automatically nurture the confidence and motivation of people who you work with.
As you know, leadership is often associated with making decisions. In connection with the perverted perception of the concept of a leader, many believe that everything that leaders do is decision-making. That is, take full responsibility for when things went wrong - it's not for a leader. What do you think about the guide who led you to the completely wrong place and said: "Well, I have nothing to do with it" or even worse «It is your fault you followed me"? The true leader is always responsible for where he/she go to and where he/she will come to as a result. If you like, you can think of taking responsibility as a moral duty, which is a kind of payment for leadership benefits, but never forget about it.
Some people try to be a leader using the method of imitation. It is especially unfortunate when trying to imitate inborn leadership type. It always looks unnatural, silly and funny and it's much easier to detect such behavior than it may seem. Do not pretend a leader: you get nothing except the rejection and loss of respect from colleagues / teams.
5. Confidence in a wrong decision made earlier
I'm not talking here about when you have problems you should immediately abandon the decision you made earlier. Problems arise all the time and we, as managers, understand this perfectly. Here I am talking about the case when there is all objective evidence that the decision was wrong. And here it is no longer necessary to resist. Some believe in the dogma that the leader is not mistaken, but it's absolutely wrong. All are mistaken. But as we found out earlier, due to the great responsibility the leader must acknowledge mistakes and correct the further way. Imagine the captain of a sinking ship who convinces everyone that there is no cause for concern and continuation of the designated course - the best thing we can do. It is a sad picture. However, I do not cease to be surprised by this naive feature of some managers.
6. Non-recognition of other's merits
The leader is responsible where he leads to. This postulate creates a false impression that in the case of local or global success, it is a merit of the leader. But this is not always the truth. Therefore, it is necessary to clearly understand what and who has done to achieve a common goal and to encourage it. It is important to do it systematically, fairly and publicly. If a leader does not recognize merits of others or appropriates their services to him/her, this is a bad leader.
7. Failure to lead by example
If you are a leader and you want to inculcate a certain pattern of behavior to your colleagues/team you should show a self example. Expecting or demanding a certain behavior that does not match yours is a losing strategy almost always, but for a long distance - definitely always. The effect in this case may be the opposite of what you planned. If your team sees the high quality of your work, your fidelity to the business, then each of its members will consciously or unconsciously aspire to be like you. The leader is one who leads, the leader is one followed by others.
I hope this short list will be a kind of reminder for self checking and, perhaps, can help to correct leaders behavior. After all, only the understanding of mistakes leads to their correction.
It is considered that one of the most significant features of managing is leadership. We, as project managers, are not exceptions, so I firmly believe that more or less every project manager is a leader.
However, let us look into the matter. Leadership - is it more about a quality or about a skill? For myself, I solved this issue long ago, breaking the concept of leadership into two, and they are different in nature: inborn leadership and technical or acquired leadership. In the first case, this is definitely a quality. In the second - a skill.
It is not easy to talk about the first one (although in the following posts I want to cover this topic). The point here is not only in the complexity of the topic in terms of psychology, sociology, physiology and other "logies", but also in the contextuality, that cannot be generalized, within which one could consider different behavior patterns of leaders. I just want to note that the inborn leadership is in fact very different from the technical leadership. First, it is inimitable (whatever someone says). Secondly, it is usually more intense in its impact. Thirdly, it is practically uncontrollable, so from the point of view of increasing the efficiency even born leaders would benefit from improving their technical leadership.
To compensate for my laconicity on the topic of inborn leadership, I will just leave a picture here I like a lot.
So, today I would like to talk about the second type of leadership.
If we consider something as a skill, then we can talk about three important components: how we learn it, how we apply it, what advantages it gives.
1. Leadership training
We all know how many training courses and other materials on the topic of leadership exist. Thousands of them. However, I did not see any strong leader who became such due to specialized courses were passed or books were read. Here it is important to say that I do not consider those who spent thousands of hours to learn and practice leadership skills (how many people of this type do you know?), but who episodically read some books or go for a 3/5/7 days trainings. My observations are confirmed by some studies (link): with the colossal growth of the market for leadership development, general disappointment in this direction from real business is also growing. It seems that, as an approach to developing, reading and training are very controversial ways for such a skill as leadership.
The second key way is an experience. Taking a proactive position, we always try (consciously or unconsciously) different ways of influencing people and situations. We take into service methods that work well and over the years we accumulate a decent arsenal for a variety of cases. It seems that this way is good enough, but the fact is no so easy. Firstly, a person rarely does something that he or she has never encountered, never heard or even thought about if it is possible. Secondly, you can always face a situation that has not been analogous in the past. This greatly limits the development of the skill.
There is a third way - mentoring. However, it is not so popular, and it depends on the personality of the mentor or mentee, and also on the context of applying the skill.
It turns out that there are no universal recipes here. You need to research and look for a method that is right for you. This is not easy, but generally we have no choice.
This topic is extensive but strongly depends on specific methods.
In the next article, I will consider this topic in terms of how you should NOT do it.
Now I can only write as an extremely general recommendation as it possible: be adequate. Here I say just about the fact that it is always worthwhile to act taking in account of the specific situation in its entirety. Do not just apply a certain behavior pattern. Think about the situation, analyze it and make your decisions relevant to circumstances.
I can say with confidence that a manager, who has powerful leadership skills, can achieve tremendous results that no one could believe. Sometimes it even happens that the leadership of a manager is the only driving force.
Leadership is the ability to influence not only people. A strong leader, which has inner willingness and confidence in success, can change even complex stable structures, can change the vision.
Can I say that leadership is a necessary skill? Almost always - yes. There are very few examples where a group of people without any leader achieved a common goal, but it is because each of them was responsible, motivated, adequate, and communicative, who understands and accepts the common goal. Unfortunatelly we all know that in real projects it is almost impossible.
So, what do we have?
If you are a manager, you must develop your technical leadership. How? Look for the path by yourself, there are no universal recipes and magic pills. Use leadership skills consciously and accurately and your results will exceed your expectations.