Throughout the years, I’ve had the privilege of learning from many great leaders. I’ve written a lot about the traits that make them great. On the flip-side, I’ve also learned a few things about where leaders can get tripped up.
In my experience, there are two classic traps that leaders fall into. These are often strong, talented leaders, and they make these mistakes with the best of intentions. Yet falling into these traps can derail good leaders from becoming great ones. My hope is that sharing my observations might help other leaders steer clear of these potentially damaging behaviors.
Leading with IQ:
The first red flag is when a leader leads with their IQ versus EQ (emotional quotient) and CQ (curiosity quotient). In today’s competitive world, leaders can feel like they need to demonstrate how much they know in order to prove they’re in charge and capable. Yet the truth is that people often don’t care what you know, until they first know that you care about them.
EQ is about investing in people emotionally and inspiring their hearts. The first things I ask in my one-on-one meetings are things like “How are you doing?” “How’s the family?” “Tell me about the kids,” and then we get into talking about business. We’re all humans first, and the more we’re able to share what it is that we have in common, the more able we are to work together. Listening to your team, as well as unpacking who you are and being transparent, are how you create the emotional bonds that are critical to leadership.
The best leaders also don’t need to have all the answers. They simply need to know what questions to ask. This where CQ (your curiosity quotient) comes in. It is about always seeking to learn from others in order to grow. In today’s rapidly changing world where new technologies are emerging every day, leaders must constantly learn from those around them and adapt. Increasingly, it is less about what you know, and more dependent on the questions you ask that make you an effective leader. I have found the best leaders to possess a unique blend of IQ-EQ-CQ, but I believe leading with emotion and curiosity are more important than intellect.
Creating a Fear of Failure:
The second red flag is when a leader doesn’t approach failure as an opportunity to learn. I know it can be difficult and uncomfortable to accept things that don’t work out the way you hoped. Everyone wants to be successful. You may even think that creating consequences for failure is teaching your teams a lesson that will drive success. The truth is this approach can actually have the opposite effect.
To be clear, I’m not advocating handing out “participation trophies” for simply trying, but I’ve come to believe one of the worst things a leader can do is to create a culture where employees are reprimanded and face consequences for making a mistake. This creates fear and causes employees to shy away from taking the difficult risks that often drive future growth. I believe success and failure should be treated equally, as opportunities to learn and adjust. The most effective leaders I admire create cultures where people are encouraged to learn and grow, even from their mistakes. These leaders realize that failure, sometimes even more so than success, creates opportunities for insights that breed long-term success.
I’m not suggesting these behaviors always come easy. As leaders in today’s fast-paced, highly-competitive culture, sometimes we tend to focus on winning minds before hearts and the business results we’re driving. Sometimes we can be so focused on short-term success that we fall into traps that stunt both our personal growth, as well as the growth of our teams. I encourage all leaders to focus on these two areas. When you do, you’ll find your teams are more inspired, connected and performing at a higher level.