Last time we talked about building on your strengths as the best way to improve your ability to lead. We said that you shouldn’t focus on shoring up your weaknesses, but rather to give more attention to developing and building on your strengths. We concluded by warning you about some weaknesses that must be addressed immediately. These are called fatal flaws.
If you don’t attend immediately to your fatal flaws, they will derail your ability to lead. You cannot hide fatal flaws because they are so significant that others will observe them almost immediately. So what are these characteristics that we should be aware of? In their book The Extraordinary Leader, Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman identify five fatal flaws that must be fixed.
Five Fatal Flaws that Must Be Fixed
- Inability to learn from mistakes
- Lack of core interpersonal skills
- Lack of openness to new or different ideas
- Lack of accountability
- Lack of initiative
Inability to learn from mistakes
The single biggest cause of failure as a leader is not recognizing mistakes, acknowledging them, learning from them, fixing them, and being ever alert not to repeat them.
The inability to learn from your mistakes is usually the result of personal pride getting in the way of you being able to admit you were wrong. Rather than acknowledge the mistake for what it was, you set out to justify your actions. You try to help people to see that your mistake was not really a mistake after all. Or worse, you try to place the blame on someone else.
Not owning up to your mistakes will lead to a destructive cycle in which you continue to make the same mistakes, again and again. Great Leaders own their mistakes and work to see that they are not repeated in the future.
Lack of core interpersonal skills
Individuals who are abrasive, insensitive, brow-beating, cold, arrogant, and bullying are on a quick road to failure. No amount of other talent and ability is capable of surmounting this fatal flaw. No combination of intelligence, hard work, business savvy or administrative skills can cover up the lack of interpersonal skills.
So, what do we mean by lack of interpersonal skills? Let’s just say that individuals who are abrasive, abusive, brow-beaters, cold, arrogant and bullies are on the fast track to failure. This behavior may get short term results, but long term success cannot be achieved by using coercive methods.
Some supervisors say, “you gotta have thick skin to work around here.” If you have said those words or if you feel that way, you need to change your thinking. People do not deserve to be treated with disrespect in the workplace. This attitude kills moral within an organization really quick. And I think this attitude shows ignorance or laziness on the part of the manager who uses coercion as a means to motive his team.
Lack of openness to new or different ideas
Individuals who reject suggestions from peers or subordinates, insist on doing things their way, and are generally closed to new thinking, are a major turnoff to others. Their behavior creates a climate of stagnation, curtails the development of others, negatively affects morale, and increases employee turnover.
Have you ever worked with a person who felt his or her ideas were always the best? Or what about the person who has already made up his mind but wants everyone to “buy-in” to his idea and discards any new ideas. He squelches any discussion that may lead to different thinking. Guess what? Not being open to new or different ideas is a killer. Not only does it make people not want your leadership, it kills any chance of innovation or creativity from your work group. This flaw not only impacts your leadership ability; it impacts the entire organization.
Lack of accountability
Great leaders not only feel responsible for their own productivity and performance, but also assume responsibility for their entire work group. Because great leaders model personal accountability, they can expect accountability by others-and provide all the necessary support others need to meet accountability expectations.
Great leaders hold themselves and others around them accountable for results. A leader that holds other to high standards but set the bar low for him or herself is really no leader at all because people will not follow a person with double standards.
Lack of initiative
Finally, individuals who fail to produce results specifically because they take no action “to make things happen” are totally the opposite of what organizations need and expect. Organizations want “leaders” who champion a number of initiatives that improve overall organizational performance.
Extraordinary Leaders take action and make things happen to move the organization forward in an effort to achieve the organization’s goals. They don’t sit passively by and watch things happen.
To sum it all up, if you have any of these five fatal flaws, you need to address them head on and make a change. Let’s take a look at how to do just that.
How to Find and Fix Your Fatal Flaws
Before you can fix a problem, you have to know what it is. The easiest way to find your fatal flaws is to get feedback from others. They will be able to spot them very easily. You might consider having your HR department conduct a 360-degree feedback survey for you. Or you could simply ask a trusted coworker, supervisor or mentor.
It usually doesn’t matter if you take a formal or informal approach. If you want to gather more feedback about your leadership than just any fatal flaws, you should go with a formal 360-degree feedback process. If you are just looking to determine what if any of these five you need to fix, then informal should be sufficient.
Once you have identified any fatal flaws, you must commit to fixing them immediately. Be sure to write it down or record your commitment in your Personal Development Plan. The easiest way to fix a fatal flaw is to simply “do the opposite.” I know that may sound very basic, but it works. By just making yourself aware of the problem and making a conscious decision to act in the exact opposite way, you will take a giant step towards fixing that fatal flaw. Here are some ways you can “do the opposite.”
- Inability to learn from mistakes – Take responsibility for and learn from your mistakes
- Lack of core interpersonal skills – Communicate and connect with people
- Don’t criticize, condemn or complain
- Give honest and sincere appreciation
- Become genuinely interested in other people
- Learn and use people’s names
- Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
- Sincerely make the other person feel important
- Lack of openness to new ideas – Take time to consider new ideas with an open mind
- Lack of accountability – Take responsibility for the performance of your team
- Lack of initiative – Take the initiative to improve your team’s performance
That’s it for now. Next time we’ll talk about Performance Management. In upcoming posts we’ll address the need for planning work, setting expectations, and monitoring behaviors and results. We’ll also take a look at some tools you can use as a supervisor or manager to empower your team to take control of their own development. In the meantime, make sure to review our previous posts and download any of the worksheets we’ve presented so far and put them to good use.