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Seven Mistakes Leaders Make

PAIR UP: Partner with leaders, employees and vendors to tap the widest range of resources.

Leading a firm to success in today's marketplace is difficult. An uncertain economy and unpredictable market changes make many employees uncertain of what to do. When leaders fail them, they either jump ship or stay on board, floundering and performing at reduced levels.

Why do leaders fail? From my observation of leaders in corporations, educational institutions, and government organizations, following any of seven practices can set up even the best leaders for a fall. These are:

1. Failure to trust. Leaders develop a following by developing trust. When trust doesn't exist, employees look for someone else to follow, inside or outside the organization. Trust is based on integrity: being honest, keeping promises, being fair. Leaders are judged by what they do every day.

2. Failure to shape and share a vision. You need to share the organizational vision and goals so employees understand the big picture. Team members want to know where their organization is going and how that direction affects their personal objectives. When events and circumstances change, communicate that to them, as well. The more you reveal to employees, the more leadership they'll perceive. Help them to vividly see the future.

3. Failure to clearly define expectations. Employees need clear focus, especially during uncertain times.When the economy turns sour or cutbacks occur, they fear any change that could affect their futures. To keep those fears at bay, continually communicate with your employees and state your expectations of them. Tell them what you want, what they did right, what you expect from them, and how you measure their progress.

4. Failure to model desired behaviors. Demonstrate the behaviors that you want from others.When you take a leadership role, you actually lose some rights: the

right to let your performance decline or to blame someone or something else. You don't get breaks. You have to work 24/7 to show others how you wish them to be.

5. Failure to partner enough. When we reach out to others to achieve mutually desired results, we are partnering. Leaders must lead the way by partnering with other organizational leaders, employees, vendors, etc. Each person brings a unique set of skills and experiences to the partnering process. Leaders must think and talk in terms of “we,” involving others in decisions that affect them and the business whenever possible.

6. Failure to retain top talent. Leaders need to behave in a way that makes the “keepers” want to stay. Top talent wants to be recognized and praised for their contributions. High achievers want some room, some authority to do what they know has to be done. They also want to advance themselves while working

with you to advance the company. Hold them back and they'll go elsewhere.

7. Failure to celebrate success. Everyone feels day-to-day pressures. Leaders must find multiple opportunities to acknowledge individual and team accomplishments. Impromptu parties, award dinners, and staff meetings are ways to stop, to say “thanks” and to encourage further success.

Today's employees hold their leaders to high standards. They want to know what to expect, where the company is going and how they fit into the big picture. The best leaders understand that and create an environment that fosters communication, teamwork and opportunities for individual and team growth.

Joanne G. Sujansky, PhD, CSP is the founder of KEYGroupô, the author of six books, including The Keys to Mastering Leadership and Unlocking The Leader Within, and leadership training programs. Call her at 724-942-7900 or visit

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