Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Top 10 common business leadership mistakes

Everyone wants to lead, but at what cost? A careless approach to leadership can result in major losses for everyone.

Most of us can recall a leader who just wasn't cut out for the job. Being a leader is demanding; becoming a great leader is uncommon. Followers aren't particularly merciful to those who lead incompetently. Instead, they can respond with insubordination, decreased productivity, or a generalized attitude of confusion or frustration.
If you are a business leader or thinking about becoming one, here are some mistakes to avoid:


1. Don't lord it over your staff. No one likes a know-it-all. Assuming a cocky stance or a bullying attitude will strike a similar flint in the hearts of your subordinates.

2. Don't be a softie. Just as a sharp edge can have a cutting effect, a marshmallow can quickly lose its shape. Being a people pleaser means that you will inevitably let someone down, so don't even try. Instead, focus on the job and make it work with everyone's interests as best you can without bending over backwards until you break.

3. Don't put on a over-confident front. If you need information, ask for it rather than pretend you have all the answers. There's nothing wrong with an honest question, but there's plenty wrong with someone who is afraid to ask.

4. Don't misjudge employees' abilities. Take time to read files, interview people, and observe performance before making staffing decisions. Put competent, trustworthy people in charge of important projects so that neither you nor the company will regret it.

5. Don't play favorites. Owing a favor or liking a person are two poor reasons for handing out raises and promotions. Feeling sorry for someone is just as bad. Use good judgment and fair play to make staff decisions.

6. Don't hold a grudge. If you don't get along with someone, stay away from the person; don't try to get even. Leaders who use their position of authority to take punitive action based on personal vendettas are likely to find themselves in trouble.

7. Don't take a casual approach to the budget. Get to know it thoroughly. Understand company growth patterns and long-term projections, as well as how your leadership can play a role. Being careless with money is dangerous and potentially costly in the business world. Careless mistakes take time to fix, and in business, time is money.

8. Don't overlook company shifts, goals, or problems. Study the "big picture" with a view to finding your place in it and growing with the company.

9. Keep an eye on industry trends. Know what's "hot" and what's not; that's how leaders keep leading. Otherwise, someone who is more knowledgeable than you may take your place.

10. Stay human. When mistakes happen, forgive others and yourself. Laugh and be friendly, but don't look foolish doing it. Avoid mechanical responses and a 24/7 mentality toward your job. Do your best, but then leave the rest of your job at work until the next day. It'll be there when you return. At night and on weekends, enjoy your family and have fun. You've earned it.

Becoming a leader is challenging. Follow these suggestions to avoid problems and help your company and your career reach their potential.
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