Have you ever done something really foolish never seriously considering the consequences of your actions? As young boys, my brother and I devised a foolish game of flinging darts close to the other’s bare foot, never intending to strike the target. Inevitably, an errant throw would strike the other’s foot. It was then that the words of that great American philosopher, John Wayne, rang with truth: Life is tough; it’s even tougher when you’re stupid.
There are alot of ways to fail as a leader – many are obvious – others we don’t see coming. So it’s a truly sad occasion when a promising leader — a leader who ought to know better — proves ignorant, indifferent or even blatantly stupid about how to avoid some of the most common leadership pitfalls.
One common leadership pitfall is pride. Thinking too highly of one’s own abilities, without appropriate consideration and acknowledgement of the contributions of followers are central ingredients in a recipe certain to prove disastrous for a leader. Wise leaders avoid this common leadership pitfall by involving and engaging followers at every opportunity; asking their followers’ opinions; recognizing their followers’ contributions and commending their followers’ accomplishments. As I describe in Chapter 10 of Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership, if leaders work to make their followers feel most important, their followers are more likely to return the favor. In other words, leaders can avoid the pitfall of pride by continuously directing the spotlight toward the “we,” not the “me.”
But as with my brother and me, occasionally the unintended happens. What then? Good leaders who want to avoid this common leadership pitfall know an apology is necessary. To be thorough, the apology should include:
1. Acknowledging our specific offense
2. Offering a plausible explanation (if there is one) for why we screwed up
3. Offering a sincere expression of our shame or regret and
4. Providing some sort of reparation or restitution.
During our leadership careers, many darts will be directed at us by others. There’s no sense in suffering from self-inflicted wounds too.
Phillip Van Hooser
Leadership Expert, Keynote Speaker
Author of Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership