Posted: 1:12 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013
By Steve Tobak
Does it always seem like you're making excuses? Herding cats? Spinning your wheels? You just might be a deadbeat leader.
You might not believe this, but probably the biggest problem in the business world is when leaders don't lead. When people in charge don't take charge. They have the title, the role, the responsibility, but they don't act that way.
It's surprisingly common, and not just among new managers and entrepreneurs, either. I've seen it with CEOs and executives of companies big and small, public and private. No kidding.
There are all sorts of reasons why, from inexperience and incompetence to lack of accountability and poor training. Some are attributable to the individual while others are the result of a company's culture or lack thereof. Oftentimes it's both.
The saddest thing about deadbeat leaders is that most aren't aware of it, at least not consciously. It's called denial, and it's also pretty common in the business world.
Regardless, there's no excuse for it. It may be your career and your life, but it's also your responsibility. Your stakeholders are counting on you to do what you're paid to do, what you committed to do, to the best of your ability.
Funny thing is, it's not that hard to tell if you're in over your head. There are plenty of signs. Ask yourself:
Does it always seem like you're herding cats? As if everyone's going in different directions and you're constantly putting out fires?
Are you a perpetual consensus manager? If you can't get everyone to agree on a direction, then nothing gets done?
Do you cut everyone, including yourself, too much slack when it comes to execution of your goals, strategies, and plans?
Are employees always walking around wondering what the plan is? Do they joke about the company's ever-changing strategy du jour (strategy of the day)?
Does "spinning our wheels" and "going nowhere fast" best describe your team's performance? Do they spend more time churning and debating than doing and accomplishing?
Are you always making excuses to your stakeholders--your customers, your employees, your CEO, your board--for failing to deliver what you committed to do? Are you always pointing fingers?
Has your business growth flatlined or been in decline for as far back as you can remember? Is it perpetually unprofitable?
Those are all signs of a deadbeat leader. If you recognize any of those signs, I've got good news for you. You've just taken the first big step to becoming a competent leader. Get some help. There's plenty of it out there. Find someone who's done what you're trying to do and get them to take you under their wing and set you straight.
Make that your priority. Your top priority. Don't say you don't have the time. Nobody ever has the time. Make the time. Do it.
Do it even if you don't think you have it in you to make the grade. The fact that somebody thought you capable enough to hand over responsibility says a lot. And if you're an entrepreneur, if it's your own gig, that also says a lot. It says you have the desire, the drive, to lead.
So lead. But first, learn how to do it right.