Four Things We Can Learn From Mediocre Leaders

Learn and Lead

Sometimes the best teachers are the worst practitioners.

In nearly 30 years consulting and speaking for corporate execs, I’ve learned from observing the best, and the worst.

Here are the top four lessons I’ve learned from observing mediocre leaders.

Many mediocre leaders are are blissfully unaware of what makes people tick. They think that what motivates them, motivates others, or should. For example, one CEO I worked with was shocked that he could not get his sales force motivated to earn large bonuses by spending at least 250 nights a year on the road like he did.  He didn’t get that not everyone was motivated by money like he was.

Lesson: Not everyone is motivated by the same things you are. Take the time to learn what makes your people tick.

Many mediocre leaders are more focused more on their wants and needs than anything else.  In new roles, they don’t take the time to get to know the people, organization or culture. They can’t wait to share their ideas and tell people what to do. They don’t understand that their success is dependent on other’s buy-in. And often, they often don’t know know how to earn that buy-in. Therefore they create an environment to meet their needs, not their follower’s needs.

Lesson: Create an environment where you meet others’ needs and they will follow you anywhere.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a leader say something to the effect of Well they shouldn’t need to be given a slap on the back for doing their job. It’s what they are paid to do. Uh oh. Sure sign of a mediocre leader. People don’t do what they should do, they do what they are motivated to do. And that might not line up with your shoulds and oughts.

Lesson: Stop worrying about what people should do and start focusing on why they do what they do.

Finally, mediocre leaders live with blinders on. They don’t think beyond their goals, their department, their responsibilities. They don’t have an enterprise view. They don’t think about what other leaders or departments need to get their jobs done.  Therefore they don’t understand why other departments or others leaders won’t give them what they need.

Lesson: Others will be much more interested in helping you meet your goals if you help them accomplish theirs.

Bottom line: Teachers are everywhere. You only need pay attention.

Dr. Gary Bradt is a dynamic keynote speaker on change and leadership.Videos and info at www.garybradt.com/speaking. His latest book is The Ring in The Rubble: Dig Through Change to Find Your Next Golden Opportunity.

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