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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Sep 9, 2022


There are two common mistakes that leaders often make - either over-leading or under-leading.



Welcome to episode 154 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we discuss two common mistakes leaders make.

Leadership is tough and it can be hard to know where to start. I think it’s helpful to explore what effective leaders actually do day-to-day. I call these leadership practices - sets of leadership behaviours that people apply. Over the next few weeks we are going to explore these leadership practices in more detail. Today we’re going to focus on two common mistakes leaders can make - relying on Directing or Avoiding. But first a reminder - leadership is about achieving results through people. A common mistake is when our leadership focuses too much on achieving results, and forgets there are human beings involved.

Directing as a leadership practice is driven a desire for control and compliance. The leader uses close direction, monitoring and instruction. This includes telling people how to do things, not just what to do. It’s effectively “do it this way” but without an explanation of why. The Directing practice also relies on negative consequences, such as fear of losing your job, or missing out on a promotion. The leader is watching and monitoring - excessively checking in around compliance rather than supporting people. That feels a lot like micromanagement. And what’s the impact of this approach? People are clear about tasks, but just may not care. This fear driven compliance reduces motivation and innovation over time. Eventually this approach actually reduces compliance. People leave or just give up. They become passive.

Some times Directing makes sense. That could include really simple tasks with little scope for variation. Or perhaps there are inexperienced people and high risk associated with non-compliance. Directing may make sense in emergency situations, or as a last resort for under-performer. However, it is unlikely to be regularly required.

The Avoiding leadership practice is at the opposite end of the scale. Avoiding focuses on my own role at the expense of leadership. I just do things myself. I see delegation as a risk - reducing the quality of work and taking longer, therefore not worth trying. The Avoiding leader tends to suck responsibility up, putting their job first before leading others. The end result for others is confusion, misdirected efforts, isolation, and reduced motivation. Sometimes people end up in a leadership position when they didn’t want to become a leader in the first place. Or they avoid leading because they just don’t know how to lead effectively.

Directing and Avoiding are like over-leading and under-leading. What people need instead is right-leading.

Over the next few weeks we will explore six leadership practices that are far more effective. It’s the perfect time to complete our brand new Leadership Practices Assessment. This assessment covers all eight leadership practices, and provides you with a tailored 13 page report showing which leadership practices you tend to rely on, which ones you don’t use as often, along with implications for you and your people. The Leadership Practices Assessment is completely free, and you will find a link to it in the show notes. Have a great week.


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