Leadership Traps to Avoid
By Hugh Ballou
After having spent over 40 years in ministry work serving churches from 120 to 12,000 in membership, I am aware that I made many mistakes and the size of the organization does not matter. Each failure was an opportunity to learn. As the saying goes, there is no failure in life, there is just failure to learn. These failures were sometimes obvious to other people, but mostly I was the one most aware of my own shortcomings. As I was able to apply specific knowledge learned from these situations to new leadership challenges, I became more successful with each future effort.
Having reached a milestone in life (I’m 70 years old), I have decided that the learning continues, if allowed. When speaking at the same event recently with master leadership trainer, Bob Proctor, he proclaimed that at 77 he was not ready to slow down as some people had suggested. He went on to declare that he was speeding up because he had more to do and more to learn. He knows more than anyone I know about leadership, however, he has a passion for continual growth. That inspired me to be aware of opportunities for personal growth.
Learning means that we as leaders are aware that there are traps. The word “traps” is a term I use to define decisions that lead to failure. As leaders, we choose to succeed or to fail in many ways.
Here are three "traps" when poor judgment can lead to failure:
1. Anxiety - When a cow hits an electric fence and gets a shock, the anxiety causes that cow to run and make noise. That anxiety spreads instantly to the rest of the heard. It's no different with humans. If the leader lets anxiety controls their thoughts, then that anxiety spreads throughout the organization. Anxiety also blurs logical thinking. In his research on interviewing successful leaders, Napoleon Hill, author of Keys to Success, found that each leader could hold a clear vision of their desired result as a positive thought in their mind at all times. In fact, he discovered that people couldn’t hold positive and negative thoughts in their minds at the same time. Do not let anxiety control logical thinking and the emotions of your organization. Control it with a clear image of a specific vision of success. Get rid of excess stress with exercise!
2. Worry - Similar to anxiety, some worry is caused by doubt. I am a "J" as defined by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. When I make a decision I am at ease. The opposite in that category is a "P". When a "P" makes a decision they worry that they have made a decision without enough information, even if they had spent endless hours gathering data. The "J" worries about the feelings of the "P" and the "P" worries about the decision. Worry is not a productive emotion. Know that you have been clear in defining your vision and setting your goals and have developed a plan for making a wise decision. Trust in the process and make adjustments as needed.
3. Imbalance - This is not about trying to make everything equal, it's about striving for balance. We are never perfect. We are constantly working on improving our leadership skills. Keeping our life in balance is one way to be at our best. When we are driven to work continually, we lose perspective and do not have time to evaluate, refine, and revise as we gain perspective. Place balancing times on your daily calendar: time for planning, time for rest, time for social and fun, time for spiritual renewal, and time for you. In the big picture, gain perspective through keeping a journal on how you are doing balancing 1) multiple priorities; 2) work and personal schedules; 3) personal factors such as spiritual, physical, social, family, health, etc. so that you feel whole.
This is a shortlist of emotional traps that keep us as leaders from a higher level of functioning. The Transformational Leader influences others with personal skills and integrity and not by the power of position. Be at your best and your organization will move toward the values and skills you model. As James Allen said, "We do not attract what we need, we attract what we are." Be balanced, confident, and calm. Your team will respond in kind. This response requires nurture, patience, and time from the leader – that’s you.