[February 15, 2015] If you get more than two or three military general/flag officers in a room and they have a little time to chat with junior leaders, one of the topics they will nearly always talk about is those things leaders should never do. I’ve been there and as a colonel I listened closely to those things that get flag officers into trouble with the rules and with their leadership credibility.
“We spend a lot of time teaching our leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching them what to stop.” – Peter Drucker
We already know that no leader should do anything that is illegal, immoral, or unethical. The problem is that gray area where the rules are not as clear and the morality of a behavior is unsettled. Eventually, a few senior leaders get themselves into some form of trouble. Below is my personal list of things – in no particular order – that leaders should never do:
- Accept defeat (Great leader never give up, they always have a backup plan, always look for ways around obstacles, and always rally people around them.)
- Expect the worst from others (There is nothing worse than a leader who knowingly lowers standards. If we expect less from others, they do less and produce less.)
- Deceive people (Making promises you cannot deliver or purposefully mislead others.)
- Take the easy way (Inevitably, a leader will be presented with an easy choice – those decisions should be made by others.)
- Lead by fear and intimidation (This was good for Genghis Khan but it does not work in a modern society; you are not a dictator.)
- Be a gatekeeper (Being the go-to-person for clearing all decisions or providing critical information is not the function of a leader.)
- Make excuses for failure (We call this whining and good leaders never complain, play the victim, make excuses for anyone’s failure, or blame others.)
- Create a toxic workplace (Unethical, mean-spirited, or illegal manipulation of people or allowing such behavior to occur is a one-way ticket to failure.)
- Fail to teach, coach, and mentor (Showing a lack of concern for others is the best way to drive away the best employees and to not invest in future success.)
- Squash creativity (Whether through over-cautiousness, disrespect, strict agendas, dismissing ideas out of hand, or unnecessary rules; when people are encouraged to always tow the party line, then creativity will be stifled.)
These ten items are difficult to stop, not because they don’t work but because they do work. In the short-term they work most of the time and that is why they are so difficult to stop. But over the long haul, leaders who employ them will experience great difficulty in achieving the mission and goals of their organization due to the inherent destructive nature of such things.
Related to things that leaders should never do are characteristics of a bad senior leader. A good review can be found here: https://www.theleadermaker.com/characteristics-of-a-bad-senior-leader/
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