Nine Reasons Leaders Aren't Leading

What percent of time do you or your leaders spend among these three areas:

  1. Solving technical problems or applying your technical expertise?
  2. Using data and analytical skills, sending/receiving e-mails, planning, directing, and decision making?
  3. Talking individually or collectively with people inside and outside your organization, coaching, developing, and inspiring action?

Have you lost your balance? If you’re like the hundreds of groups whose leaders have gone through this self or team assessment in our workshops or retreats, you feel you need to spend much more time leading and less time managing and using your technical expertise. Study after study shows that leadership skills account for 60 – 75% of the difference between leaders with the best and worst results. This includes levels of engagement, quality, safety, productivity, innovation, and customer service.

When groups discuss why they’re not spending as much time leading as each leader there feels he or she needs to be, these reasons often emerge this look in the mirror:

  1. “Soft Skills” are Hard – technical and management skills are easier to define, measure, and apply.
  2. Comfort Zone – most leaders were promoted for his or her technical and management skills. Many aren’t given a cross-training map on how to leverage his or her leadership strengths.
  3. The E-mail Beast – screen sucking drains time from leadership activities. E-mail is a terrible way to persuade, coach, have a meaningful conversation, deal with conflict, or inspire performance.
  4. Meeting Mess – many meetings start late, run overtime, lack structure, get off track, don’t focus on top priorities, fail to document decisions and action plans, allow screen distractions, fall into group think, drive conflict underground, and overlook bad behavior.
  5. Upward Delegation – many managers accept the monkey off the back of their direct reports and put it on their own by solving problems for them.
  6. Micromanagement – frequent monitoring and follow ups can feel like “snoopervision,” feeds The E-mail Beast, and transfers the monkey to the manager’s back.
  7. No Time for Coaching – managers who fail to invest in their coaching skill development and invest time in developing others are often overworked and overwhelmed with daily firefighting.
  8. Priority Overload – new projects and initiatives are piled on top of overflowing workloads. Little time is spent pruning and prioritizing conflicting activities.
  9. Trivial Many vs. Vital Few – when daily operations crowd out strategic time to reflect and refocus, minor and urgent issues overpower the major and important ones.

How many of these reasons apply to you or your leaders? What’s needed is a time shift from technical and management to leadership. I’ll discuss this further in this month’s complimentary webinar LeaderShift: Transforming Good Managers into Great Leaders.