The Eight Deadly Sins of Leadership (part 2)

This is part 2 of a two-part blog. To read part 1, click here.

The number one goal is to understand the importance of leadership and spend time leading the organization, not just running it.

In my thirty years of business management experience, there is a list of leadership “sins” committed every day by well-intentioned executives. Most likely, these sins are learned from others or developed out of inexperience. All of these “sins” keep your company from achieving its potential in growth, customer satisfaction, productivity, etc.—all key things that link to the bottom line. If you commit any of these sins, you are not alone. Here is the good news: every single one of these “sins” is within your control. You can change them all—start tomorrow!

Sins 1-4: [ To review these, click here ]

    1. Time
    2. Habit/Success
    3. Ego
    4. Excuses


  1. Me-too-ism: This may be one of the most common sins, and yet some leaders regard this as best practice. Me-too-ism is benchmarking the competition (which is good; we should know our competition) and if they are offering a service that you don’t, copy it. Or if they can deliver service with fewer people, cut people (even if they don’t do business with your customers in your market) it must be ok because others are doing it! Wrong! The more alike companies become in an industry, the less differentiation is apparent to customers. The less differentiation, the only discerning criterion is price, so margin pressure is the result. If you are caught in the trap of emulating your competitors, adding costs, and decreasing differentiation, STOP! Figure out how to compete on a unique value proposition which reflects what your company capabilities are and what you can do better than the competition. [ For more information, click here ]
  2. Inside-Out: A company that is focused on the inside-out is one that strives to sell what they make or promote their strength, regardless of the market needs. In this scenario, it is likely they have not defined a relevant market, or a target customer but have a great idea and will sell it to whoever will buy it. Often the result is trying to reach everyone, being everything to everybody, and that is just not a sustainable business model. Companies that are frantically running around trying to sell, sell, sell and anybody with a checkbook is a customer, are prototypical examples of this type of company. Leaders who manage outside-in, who look at their business through the customers’ eyes, who understand their market and the customer they are targeting and know their strategy for success, can move further faster with limited resources because they are deployed for maximum impact.
  3. Under-communication: This “sin” is, by far, one of the most common. Many executives communicate regularly with their staff. They believe they have made strategy, initiatives, expectations all clear. However, the second most often cited reason for failure to achieve goals is lack of clear communication, consistently repeating and linked to accountability. The general rule of thumb, important information needs to be communicated seven times for it to be internalized and heard. It is the same principal that applies to frequency in advertising; people don’t really hear you the first time, or at least aren’t sure if you mean it. The more significant the change or the higher the expectation, the more frequently the message needs to be communicated. The rules of communication are:
    • Consistency: say it the same way throughout the company; establish your lexicon
    • Clarity: say it so it is understood by the average person on the street; tell stories; use analogies
    • Frequency: Say it often; at least seven times; express it in written form, celebrate quick wins, post it on the lunch room wall. You cannot communicate too much.
    • Reinforcement: Tie it to performance expectations
  4. Resource Allocation: The number one reason for not meeting goals cited by most companies is under allocation of resources to growth ideas. Think about it. Most companies have established budgets and existing operations to support. So is the new idea, product, market, going to receive an adequate amount of resources? Which existing department is going to step up to eliminate activities or cut resources so the new idea on the block can get funded? Haven’t seen many volunteers in our client work—unless 1) they are so clear on priorities and growth initiatives the budget shifts are obvious or 2) they can identify things to “stop doing” so that they can re-invest those resources elsewhere. This combination has proven to be a winner in our work with clients; enabling them to allocate resources toward growth projects without harming current operations that are contributing to company success.

These sins are not limited to the board room or executive suite. Anyone in any organization can be a leader if they have a vision for the future and a group willing to support that vision. So do a quick check; ask yourself and ask your team, “Am I committing any of these sins? And if I am, let’s fix it!” After all, they are in your control!

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