Business growth in 2022 and beyond is and will be all about a business’s ability to respond to change, adapt quickly without losing sight of the vision and transform as needed to remain relevant.

A staggering 67% of strategic plans fail.  Why? The answer is poor leadership.

There are some very consistent themes when it comes to the common mistakes leaders make, and most of them are people related!

Not delegating or letting go

An inability to empower, trust and inspire accountability will stifle growth, confuse, and frustrate the team, and result in a lack of respect or confidence in the leader. A lack of trust and reliance on the team will restrict the growth of the business to the skills and capacity of the leader and sabotage the culture. People need to feel valued, part of a bigger picture and know that they are making a positive contribution to the delivery of the business’s goals.

No vision or definition of long-term success

A leader needs to be able to see, prepare for and share the future goal with the entire business. This will align and motivate the business and allow individuals to see the big picture, the long-term goal, why they are doing what they are doing and how they fit in. Leaders need to show they are one-step ahead and equally as focused on what’s next as they are on what’s now.

Not encouraging and driving change

Without change a business will wither and die. The leader needs to have a change mindset and understand the importance of the business to be able to respond to change whenever and however is needed. The business culture and processes need to allow identification of a ‘curve ball’ or new opportunity, the necessary analysis, decision making and any resulting plan re-set. This all needs to be done quickly and without losing sight of the vision. The role of the leader is to create the culture to allow this to happen.

Change can be unsettling, and the business will rely on and expect their leader to embrace that change and confidently navigate curve balls, opportunities and lead the business forward, no matter what external forces (both positive and negative) may be at play.

Managing activities rather than leading and developing people

People do not want to feel like a cog in the wheel or a critical date on a project plan.  Having access to learning and development opportunities is the top priority for millennials when choosing an employer. They will engage with businesses and leaders they are aligned to, who are values and purpose driven and who they trust. Leaders who walk the talk and respect, and value their team will attract motivated and aligned people. Great leaders have great teams of talented people who are experts in what they do. Strong leaders spend time and energy building and developing these teams for the long-term success of the business.

Being reactive vs proactive

A leader who waits for things to happen before they act or make a decision does not instil confidence in their team. Businesses expect their leader to be one-step ahead, confident, and decisive. They expect their leader to clearly communicate the goal, tell the business how they will achieve that goal and importantly keep the business up to date with progress, challenges and any new focus that might be needed to respond to a change. Change makes people nervous, and they are looking to the leader to share the plan and instil confidence in what is next and reassure the business that it is in good hands.

Not getting to know people.

An authentic leader is genuinely interested in their people – who they are, what they do outside work, their ambitions, passions etc. They know people’s names, what motivates them and what is important to them. They converse and ask questions that show they genuinely care. They listen, respond and follow-up and they encourage family and personal values and purpose into the workplace.

Ineffective management of conflict

Not dealing with conflict and tension results in ‘elephants in the room’ and affects team alignment, open communication and undermines positive culture. Great leaders encourage alternative viewpoints and do not stick to hierarchical out of date formality when asking for it. They create safe and supportive environments for people to speak and will actively look for the issues that are not being raised.  The best plans and best decisions are made based on real and raw facts, even if they are not always easy to raise and great leaders create cultures that allow this and have zero tolerance for those that sabotage the culture.

Poor communication

This is a huge one. Most leadership shortfalls come back to communication in one form or another. Communicating clearly and often to the whole business and individuals will keep the business aligned, well oriented and on-track and will create a strong and positive culture. Great leaders encourage, update with both positive and challenging news, provide constructive feedback, coach, recognise and celebrate. The communication is varied and fluid – from formal meetings to informal updates, emails, newsletters or even cute visuals (eg a sales funnel picture) placed in key areas around the office. Great leaders are transparent, authentic, and consistent. They see communication as one of the most important parts of their role.

Not providing regular feedback on progress and performance

The delegate and run approach does not support or encourage great performance. People want to feel valued and that their contribution is making a difference. Career opportunity and professional development are key motivators for individuals when considering potential employers and there is an expectation that leaders will provide guidance and coaching throughout their time with the business. Individuals who know they will be receiving consistent feedback on their progress will be more engaged, more motivated and feel confident to ‘have a go’. Great leaders encourage not just great results but enthusiasm, passion, having a go and learning. They recognise effort even if the outcome is not perfect and love nothing more than seeing the confidence and pride their people build.

Keeping toxic people around

Despite someone’s skill and financial contribution to the business, if they are not aligned to the culture, the damage they do will be larger than the tangible results they might achieve. Acting quickly to shut down toxic behaviour (which often means removing that person from the business) is critical and a sign of a strong leader. The moral of the business will lift, alignment will be restored, culture strengthened, and a new wave of high performers will fill the skill set of that toxic person very quickly.