By John C. Maxwell
It happens all the time.
Successful leaders- people with great business acumen, great teams and great vision- are moving along, growing their companies when, all of a sudden, they fall flat on their faces.
Their businesses start hemorrhaging money. Their best people start jumping ship. Their families start falling apart.
And they sit at their desks with their heads in their hands wondering, “How did this happen?”
I’ll tell you how it happened. They were blown up by a problem they never saw coming.
I call these problems “leadership landmines” because unless you’re consciously looking for them, they’re nearly impossible to spot. They’re buried in the grind of daily life, quietly waiting to injure and perhaps even destroy the next unsuspecting leader who steps on them.
Before I go on, I need to tell you that what I’m writing is based on personal experience. At one time or another in my career, I’ve stepped on landmines like the ones I’m about to describe. In some cases, I even have the scars to prove it.
If you’re moving and active, you’re bound to have a painful encounter with a landmine every now and then. It’s just the nature of leadership. But there are certain landmines that will absolutely wipe you out if you’re not careful, and those are the ones that really deserve our attention.
A friend once told me, “If I could kick the person most responsible for most of my problems, I would not be able to sit down for a week.” From my own life and the lives of the leaders I’ve observed over the years, I have found that to be absolutely right. Most leaders I watch don’t need to worry about the competition beating them. Instead, they need to be concerned about doing something stupid in the race and disqualifying themselves.
Leadership landmines come in many forms. Spending too much time basking in today’s success without looking towards the future will sabotage your leadership. So will failing to make tough calls, advancing in position but not personal growth, and betraying the trust of your people.
You may never have thought of some of these things as being that bad, but believe me, they are. And none of them are caused by other people, including your competitors. If these problems affect your life, the blame lies squarely on your shoulders. So if you want to maintain your integrity as a leader, it’s critical that you recognize them as leadership landmines and take steps to avoid them.
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Another deadly landmine that many leaders step on is the propensity to lose touch with the people they’re leading. When leaders become isolated- due to success, failure or even extreme busyness- they become ineffective.
It’s the natural human response to withdraw during such times, but if you want to avoid this landmine, you can’t do that. Get down off the mountain. Walk slowly through the crowd. Listen to your people and actually hear what they’re saying. Sense what they’re feeling. Hang out with them.
Taking these actions will definitely enable you stay in touch with your people. The following steps also will help.
They’re the only appreciable assets that you have, so don’t go around thinking that they’re replaceable or not necessary. You can’t do your job without other people.
Avoid positional thinking.
Leadership has nothing to do with your position or title; it has everything to do with your influence. If you want to keep from losing touch with your people, you have to adopt the mindset that the folks around you work with you, not for you. Titles and positions don’t matter. If you’re good at what you do, you don’t need them, and if you’re not so good, they won’t help. So stop thinking of yourself in terms of your position or title.
Love the people you lead.
This is something I’ve said for many years: People really do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Understand that you’re in the people business.
You might think you’re in banking, real estate, manufacturing or publishing. But, as my friend Ken Blanchard is fond of saying, no matter what you do, you’re actually in the people business. Your clients are people, your suppliers are people, and your employees are people. Make no mistake- you are in the people business.
Understand the “Law of Significance.”
This law says, “One is too small of a number to achieve greatness.” If you can achieve your dream by yourself, you don’t have much of a dream.
John C. Maxwell is a contributing author for [http://www.christianbusinessdaily.com]ChristianBusinessDaily.com — The Online Network for Christians in Business. Your source for news, articles, and commentary from a biblical perspective.
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