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1 Critical Leadership Error Plus 4 Ways To Avoid It

leadership error

There is one critical leadership error most leaders make at some point. I make it frequently. If you’re leading you probably do also.

The critical leadership error: Forgetting people are trying to follow.

We get so caught up in our own world we forget the same people we are trying to lead are trying to follow us. We “think” we know where we are going and we assume they do also—almost like they can read our minds.

Have you ever tried to follow someone in a car?

Some are good at this kind of leading and some aren’t. I have followed people who take quick turns without using a blinker. Some dodge in and out of traffic—forgetting the person behind can’t react as quickly. Others fail to tell you a general direction or give you an address in case you get separated. Some don’t have their phone handy where you can call them if you fall behind.

Do you understand the analogy?

In a similar way it is with a team or organization when the leader forgets people are trying to follow.

The leader sets the pace for the organization. As the leader goes, so goes the organization. And some leaders get so passionate about what they are thinking and doing they forget others are trying to keep up with them.

Good leaders frequently evaluate to make sure the current pace doesn’t leave someone behind—unless it is intentional—which would be the subject of another post.

What can a leader do to keep from losing those who are trying to follow along the way?

4 suggestions to avoid this critical leadership error:

Ask Questions

Granted, most people are not going to call out the leader. This is true regardless of how “open” the leader’s door might be. So, good leaders ask lots of open-ended questions. They are continually evaluating and exploring to discover what they wouldn’t know if they didn’t ask. They check in with people often to make sure they understand where they are going, have what they need and are able to continue the pace healthfully.

Be Vulnerable

While the leader ultimately sets the speed of the team, good leaders allow others on the team help set the pace. They share leadership across the team. It’s more difficult to argue against the pace when the team helped to set it. It takes humility, but good leaders allow the decision-making process of the organization to be spread throughout the team. They are open to correction—giving people permission to speak into their life and are not easily offended when someone challenges them—or even sometimes corrects them.