Traditional approaches to leadership development merely scratch the surface. The real issues occur at foundational levels and are remedied only when directly addressed. Methods and practices are important, but companies benefit only when they delve into the complexities of leadership personality.
Despite all of the resources available to leaders today – books, articles, seminars, coaching and training programs – employees remain dissatisfied with leadership, their jobs and the future. After decades of attention paid to building better leaders, overall workforce distaste and distrust show little improvement. The managerial mindset is also stagnant.
When perfectionistic leaders prioritize outcomes over people, employee morale and a leader’s legacy suffer. People need room to breathe and the freedom to contribute with the skills they have. There’s almost always more than one way to achieve a goal. Perfection, as desirable as it may seem, is deceptively dangerous.
Perfectionistic leaders may be as damaging as those who embrace mediocrity. Perfectionists often obsess over process, commonly insisting that tasks be completed their way. Often accompanying perfectionism is obsessive-compulsive behavior, with leaders demanding adherence to narrow windows of acceptable norms. While ostensibly committed to doing what’s best, perfectionists have tightly controlled definitions of what best means.
Employees generally agree that leaders with a passion for excellence, quality and accomplishment benefit their organizations. These qualities place leaders at the top of their fields. No one faults managers who give their all and make sacrifices, but too much of a good thing can also pose problems.
Leaders who lose their mojo rarely have an accurate picture of what’s happening to (or inside) them, so the highest priority is a proper assessment by a trusted colleague, mentor or, optimally, a qualified leadership coach.
All leaders experience drift at some point in their careers. The greatest danger is failing to recognize it and taking steps to reverse it. Prolonging a short stretch of drift can render it irreversible, leading to career and team failures. Fortunately, leaders can take concrete steps to prevent irrevocable consequences.
Business is an active, demanding endeavor. Only those who consistently apply themselves succeed. Organizations that flourish require leaders who actively dream, plan, engage, solve, pursue and network. It’s a lot of work, and there’s no finish line.
Leaders develop and use communication—a soft skill—to work with others, recognizing that success relies on unity and collaboration. When combined with the traditional hard skills of quantitative analysis and decision-making, communication rounds out a leader’s ability to bring people together and achieve high performance.
Leaders continue to assume greater responsibilities and pressures as markets and technologies call for increasingly faster commerce, responses and results. Information overload and business volatility have become the norm, requiring nimble management and staff interconnection. Leadership success depends on a most essential professional skill: strategic communication.