- April 4, 2018
- Posted by: David Marshall
- Category: Leadership, management
A recent article, Eight Mistakes Leaders Make That Kill Employee Trust, briefly discussed different management shortcomings and problems that we may unknowingly have or use, which can ruin employees’ respect for us. I wanted to address each of these mistakes and help you learn how to avoid them.
Let me tell you a little secret: Everyone has a weakness, including leaders.
There is no way that nobody is without flaw, shortcoming, or blind spot. As humans, we all have them, and they all can be a problem. And if you’re lying about having a weakness you’re only going to damage your leadership further.
(Also, that tells us that lying and a fragile ego are two of your biggest weaknesses.)
But more importantly, your weakness is going to be found out. If it’s something functional, people will very quickly figure out what it is that you don’t know. Get it out in the open, find people who can shore up that issue and fill in that hole so it doesn’t become a problem.
For example, I’ve never really been tech savvy, while there are those who can fly with a computer. I just can’t, so I’ve never hidden that fact. I certainly have a concept of the outcomes I want, but I have problems arriving at them. So instead, I surrounded myself with people who are specialists in that area and can actually compensate for my weakness.
This is where being candid about my weakness certainly helped. I found the experts who could get me there, and I was able to focus my attention on the more important issues that I was good at. I think people respect that in their leaders.
(But if it’s something personal, then don’t burden your staff with it. If you’re having problems at home, you’re in recovery, or you have minor health issues, keep them to yourself unless someone absolutely needs to know it. Leadership doesn’t burden people with their own personal issues.)
Why do leaders try to keep their weaknesses a secret?
It’s more of an ego thing than anything else. They’re more enamored with their position than they are enthusiastic about creating an outcome. They like being a leader more than they like doing the work. So they don’t necessarily spend any time or energy understanding how something is happening or what’s being done, they just fly around issuing instructions without looking at the bigger picture.
They like looking like a big shot, like their position is based on their shiny reputation and stellar abilities. They worry that any weakness is going to appear as a crack in their armor, and their empty shell of authority will come crumbling down.
And who knows, maybe they’re suffering from Impostor Syndrome, where they secretly worry they’re a phony and a fraud, and we’re going to find them out. They’re afraid they’ll be fired because we found out that they’re actually an idiot. I’ve known plenty of very successful managers and even successful creative types who suffer from Impostor Syndrome, even after decades of success.
What these people don’t realize is that we already know they have a weakness. We realized it when we discovered we had a human being for a boss. We expected it, we accepted it, and we learned to deal with it. But when the leaders themselves don’t acknowledge it, and will do anything to hide it, it only creates conflict and a loss of credibility, which hurts the vision they’re trying to create.
I’ve been fortunate to never be in a position where I had to work for someone who thought this way. Instead, I was in positions where either I could get rid of them or I could effectively just ignore them and cut them out of my life. My performance was not dependent on theirs. If it had been, I would have been in deep trouble.
If you find yourself in a leadership position, gather your team and explain to them what your professional weaknesses are, and ask them for help. They’ll appreciate your honesty and willingness to trust them and they’ll help you work past it. They’ll shore up your shortcomings because you
re going to be able to help them with theirs as well.
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Photo credit: Hernán Piñera (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)