What Leaders Lack

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I conduct leadership programs around the country, and lately have had many discussions with people about what their leaders lack, and what they lack as a leader and would like to work on themselves. Here is what I have found:

Lack of direction: In many leadership programs, we have discussions about the fact that many leaders do not state clearly what they expect, or the expectations continually change from week to week, which confuses the team. Make sure you have clear expectations with each person and what you expect them to do. They can’t hit a target if they don’t know where it is.

Lack of attention: I’m told that people can barely even schedule time to meet with a manager, and when they’re successful, the manager is multitasking and distracted.  Managers have too many people to manage and too many projects going at once. As a leader you must carve time out of your calendar to meet with your team members on a consistent and regular basis. I often say in my programs that a great leader has to “prioritize and calendar-ize.” Important things don’t get done unless they are on the calendar and we have the discipline to stick to those calendar items.

Lack of empathy: Many years ago, I woke up in the morning to discover that both my driveway and my road in front of my house were coated with a thick sheet of ice. I quickly realized that no matter what kind of car I had, I was not going to be going anywhere that day. I called the office and explained that my roads were iced over and I would not be in that day that I would be working from home. When I arrived at work the next day my manager gave me a hard time about not coming to work the day before. He explained rather testily that “every employee had come in except for me.” My response was that the people who showed up for work did not live out in the country with roads coated with ice. He had no empathy for my situation and said, “Well, you should have been here.” When you have people who do great work and you show lack of empathy for their individual situations, you damage morale on the team and make that person question why they are working so hard for you and the company. I believe that a little empathy goes a long way.

Lack of sensitivity to other people’s time: Every one of us in our career has worked with a boss who delivered some urgent last-minute project to our desk at 5:15 on the evening of our son’s piano recital and said, “I need you to get this done before you leave.” I am not saying that people should not, at times, work a little later in order to complete a project, but I do believe there are situations when a person’s personal life outside of work may take precedence. There obviously needs to be a balance between the two, but I often find leaders to be tone deaf when it comes to sensitivity about an employee’s personal time.

Lack of mission/vision: Many companies have mission and vision statements. What I find is that often there is no translation between the mission and vision and the actual work that needs to be done individually and as a team. We are not just making another widget; we’re saving a life, improving a lifestyle, saving people time, making people’s lives better, increasing efficiency, on and on. The big question is, why are your people doing what they’re doing other than just for the paycheck?

Take a moment to read back through each of these areas of leadership lack, and decide which one you need work on in order to make yourself the kind of leader that other people will want to follow.

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