No one is perfect. No one can be right 100 percent of the time (even if you are Jack Welch), including an organization’s leaders. But there are mistakes, and then there are MISTAKES.
I have found 10 basic essentials that all leaders should have on their list titled “things to avoid at all costs,” lest they end up on the wrong end of a no-confidence Board vote.
As a former (and very green) CEO, I was guilty of all of these leadership mistakes, and they cost me, my executive team, employees, shareholders, and my family dearly. The sad part of this is that I could have avoided all of these mistakes. So please learn from my failures.
Some of these mistakes may be obvious; some may be a bit more obscure. They are all critical.
1. Pride and Arrogance.
The downfall of many leaders is that their early successes begin to inflate their egos. Never forget your roots, don’t think you are invincible or infallible, and don’t put yourself above anything or anyone. An ancient script says, “Pride goes before destruction,” and it behooves leaders to tattoo that on their forearms. The trappings and power of the office lulled me into a false sense of security. I began to believe that I was superior to other people and institutions and that I could do no wrong.
2. Negative Influences.
There is no lack of advice in this world. Some voices offer valuable counsel that can help keep you on track. Other voices will nudge you ever so slightly until one day you wake up and find yourself way off course. Tune in to the voices of value and tune the others out. I had plenty of people surrounding me, all eager to give advice. My challenge was sifting through the ones worth listening to and ignoring the others. How can you tell the difference? Listen to different perspectives from divergent sets of people, and then pay attention to the still small voice inside of you. The longer you listen, the better listener and discerner you will become.
3. Lacking Integrity.
There are many things you can lack and still steer clear of danger. Integrity isn’t one of them. Establish a set of sound ethics policies, integrate them into all business processes, communicate them broadly to all employees, and make clear that you will not tolerate any deviation from any of them. Then live by them. You have to carve out time to set the “integrity agenda” for your own edification and then to make it clear to the organization. I took for granted people would be able to figure out right from wrong. The problem is, in the middle of a hectic and pressure filled quarter, I myself failed to figure it out.