The biggest mistake leaders make is to think it is all about them. They believe that success or failure is a direct result of their own personal behavior rather than a team effort. Show me a successful leader and I will show you a person surrounded by good people who each do their own jobs exceedingly well. While it is common practice in this country to celebrate the individual, no one builds a high performing organization by themselves. This doesn’t mean that the leader isn’t an essential ingredient; however, he/she needs other ingredients to complete the recipe.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. There are situations in which we will naturally thrive and others where we will inevitably struggle. A leader’s job is to maximize the organizational benefits of their talents while minimizing the impact of their weaknesses. The best way to mitigate individual limitations is to seek out other people who supplement our own deficiencies. Visionary leaders often need colleagues who excel at focus and implementation. Detail-oriented people often require team members who push them to be more decisive and think outside of the box. Someone who has great people skills may lose sight of harsh business realities. If you’ve worked for any considerable amount of time, you will notice that your favorite leaders often knew where they were lacking and made sure they dealt with this reality rather than ignored or overcompensated for it.
In addition, there are limits to what any one person can physically accomplish. You can only personally sell so much or manage a finite number of clients. No one person has the market cornered on good ideas. As smart as you may be, you won’t have the requisite knowledge to effectively address every issue that pops up. Moreover, there are only so many hours in a day. Anyone who pushes too hard for too long will burnout and start making bad decisions. The first growth roadblock for most businesses is when they’ve exhausted the professional capability of the leader. Sadly, many companies don’t get too far beyond this point due to ego issues and/or short-sightedness.
A leader’s job is not to be a superman or superwoman, who can personally overcome any obstacle strewn in their path. Their job is to build organizational resilience through teamwork, shared commitment and sacrifice, building and leveraging the talent base available to the company, establishing critical operational redundancies, and maintaining the ongoing pursuit of common objectives (despite obstacles). If you take a prolonged vacation, the business shouldn’t fall apart. Employees shouldn’t panic at the first sign of a crisis and look to your strong leadership to solve all the tough problems. The biggest mistake is to place yourself at the center of the organizational universe and view others as simply inhabiting your orbit. Instead see yourself as part of a constellation of stars serving a more important purpose.