There’s no question we have all heard all about the strengths of great leaders throughout history and how you can model after them to improve yourself, excel, and take your organization forward. However, there has been very little to no chatter on the common leadership weaknesses that sabotage teams and organizations.
As a leader, knowing these common leadership weaknesses is just as important to your success.
Here’s the truth:
Neglecting to understand these frequent leadership pitfalls can lead to blind spots in your leadership that can unravel teams, build resentment and distrust, and lay the groundwork for failure--all without you even knowing (and even if you have the best of intentions).
That’s why it’s critical to focus on becoming self-aware so you can recognize where you fall short, acknowledge your weaknesses, and have the strength and courage to seek guidance.
This is exactly what I’ll show you how to do in this article.
The 6 Most Common Leadership Weaknesses With Solutions from the Pyramid of Success
Making up the rules as you go along.
Failing to have a consistent, guiding leadership philosophy that dictates your expectations, how you make decisions, and how your team works towards goals is detrimental to your success.
When you make up the rules as you go along, your team will never know what to expect and will begin disengaging. This leads to distrust in your leadership and weak performance.How to fix it:
Take some time to define your philosophy as a leader. Define where you fit into your organization, what difference you and your team make, how you make that difference, and why.
But don’t do this on your own…
Make sure you incorporate your team members into the process!
Cooperation, one of the “people blocks” of the foundation tier of the Pyramid of Success, will help your entire team get on the same page and understand how their work fits into the bigger picture. Your team will also be more likely to buy into a philosophy they had a role in developing.
The Pyramid of Success can help you create this leadership philosophy if you don’t have one already. You can get started by taking the free assessment here.
Then, once you have your guiding purpose and a practical framework for leading your team, make sure you reinforce it consistently over time to build trust and make sure your employees don’t dismiss it as a one-off, feel-good exercise.
Poor quality thinking.
Poor quality thinking arises when you don’t have a clear guiding philosophy as a leader. Notice a common theme here? We repeat the need for a clear philosophy.
Poor quality thinking can result in you focusing on the wrong things at the wrong time, which leads to low productivity, low team engagement, and little-to-no success. Since everything you do as a leader is connected to the quality of your thinking, this can be detrimental.
The quality of your thinking (your philosophy on the fundamentals of your thinking, actions and business) directly impacts your success as a leader.How to fix it:
Remember, everything starts with the quality of your thinking ( Lesson #1 of 5 in The John Wooden Way), and quality thinking starts with having a clear philosophy of your own that you can use to steer your employees and organization.
So, focus your mind, get clear on your thinking, define your vision for success and guide your team forward. Once you’ve defined your philosophy, start seeking out resources that will help you improve your thinking like books, coaches, and mentors.
Coach Wooden sought wisdom from each of these sources and continually honed the quality of his thinking. Everything you do starts with your thinking, so make sure you understand what direction you’re going and what fundamentals you need to focus on to get there.
Not practicing what you preach.
Being a living, breathing example of your company’s philosophy is high on anyone’s leadership strengths and weaknesses list, but walking the walk isn’t always easy.
Being a leader is one of the most complex jobs on the planet. It’s incredibly easy to become misaligned during the whirlwind of demands, expectations of stakeholders, and fires needing to be put out on a daily basis. However, this kind of disconnect can be very damaging—especially if it causes you to compromise on your leadership philosophy.
Remember, your team won’t remember what you say as much as they’ll remember what you do.
A "do what I say, not what I do" mentality kills your credibility and is highly toxic to your work environment. What’s more, you’ll never be able to hold your staff accountable if you aren't willing to do the work yourself.How to fix it:
As a leader, you’re a role model, and you must set an example for your team (Lesson #2 of 5 in The John Wooden Way). If you want your employees to respect and listen to you, you must follow your own rules. After all, Integrity, a block found in the mortar on the Pyramid of Success, is a valuable and respected quality of leadership.
It is vitally important to be clear and consistent in all your actions, your thinking, your attitudes, and your behavior. It might be helpful to think about what the people you respect would say about the kind of example you’re setting. Is it good enough? If not, make the changes you need.
Even though you might think you’ve made yourself clear, poor communication is one of the most common weaknesses of a leader.
Unclear expectations of your team, forgetting to recognize team members for work well done, not framing feedback in constructive ways, or simply not being available when you’re needed are all ways leaders can fall down when it comes to communication.
Also, poor communication is detrimental to your organization--regardless of whether you’re aware it’s even happening and even if you have the best of intentions.
For proof, look no further than the countless bosses in our world who punish employees for something they didn’t even know they did wrong. They say things like: “You should have known!” and “Because I said so!” without ever clearly communicating.
In doing so they build resentment and distrust in their team.
How to fix it:
Your employees need certainty, so providing direction and instruction will motivate your team and keep them on track. As a leader, you should set individual goals for direct reports and explain how they align with your organization's philosophy, so you set them up for success.
You also need to make sure your expectations are explicitly communicated, either verbally or in writing, along with an explanation of why they are important. Then, once you’ve set them out clearly, you need to reinforce your expectations by communicating them regularly in team meetings, coaching conversations, and performance reviews.
Take the time to give constructive feedback to your employees. Not doing so is one of the most common weaknesses of leaders. Tell your employees how and why they are excelling or if they’re falling short, and give them actionable ways to grow in the future. Make sure you follow up with appraisals and reviews to boost their confidence or let them know they’re valued and that you’re interested in helping them improve.
Remember the concept that to be “clear is kind, unclear is unkind” (Brene’ Brown).
You’re not helping your employees if you’re not honest (Honestly, a block in the mortar of the Pyramid of Success) with them, if you’re avoiding difficult conversations, or blaming them for not delivering the things you did not explain they were accountable for.
Focusing on goals above all else.
A goal is like a compass… it tells your employees where your organization is going and what role they play.
Setting goals as a way to get things done is extremely helpful. Setting realistic and achievable goals is also a powerful driver of positive behavior and improves performance and productivity. However, focusing on goals alone can negatively impact your organization.
By all means, respect goals as valuable indicators that tell you whether you’re on track in terms of your organization’s journey but don’t be beholden to them. Focus more on your processes, focus on the fundamentals, and continuous improvement rather than winning at all costs. That’s what John Wooden did, and he won 10 NCAA titles despite boldly declaring winning isn’t everything. His focus on the process of winning rather than winning itself led him to a historical career.How to fix it:
It’s important to remember that winning isn’t everything. As John Wooden who developed the Pyramid of Success said, success is defined as “having the peace of mind and self-satisfaction that come from making an effort to become the best of which you are capable of becoming.”
Winning is a process, not an end itself. Success is about defining what the “right kind of work” looks like for your team and committing to putting in the work at the highest level.
Encourage your team to focus heavily on the processes and actions they can actually control, and success will follow. Focus on the inputs, and the outputs will come.
Not delivering results.
If you, as a leader, don’t have the talent or skills necessary to produce the results your organization needs, deep frustrations and resentments will develop. You’ll quickly lose your employees’ respect and trust which in turn can lead to your team members feeling insecure, underappreciated, and uncertain.
This doesn’t mean you have to be the most talented person on your team, though. You just have to be committed to honing your skills and delivering at a high level.
Winning isn’t everything, but a lack of results and progress will quickly lead to your team doubting your abilities.Here’s how to fix it:
Invest in talent. Invest in yourself and hire your employees carefully by making sure the people you bring into your organization have the skills (Skill in the Heart of the Pyramid) you need. Invest in your existing employees and make sure you can all properly and quickly execute the fundamental elements of your organization. Allow all your employees to learn new skills and identify and nurture the promising talent you already have.
Remember, talent can be learned through hard work and perseverance. Plan for and recognize success and incentivize learning for leaders and all your employees so your entire organization can deliver the results demanded.
Displaying These Weaknesses Doesn’t Make You a Bad Leader
It’s easy to think that struggling with one or more of these weaknesses makes you a bad leader.
Great leaders are great not because they lack weaknesses, but because they commit to turning their weaknesses into strengths.
They commit to the process of continuous improvement and persist in the face of pressure and adversity. You have already proven you’re committed to the same process by reading this article!
If you’re looking to take the next step in your leadership journey and get a proven framework for becoming the best leader you can be, we recommend taking The Pyramid of Success: Assessment for Individuals and 30-Day Playbook.
It will help you discover your biggest opportunities for improvement and show you exactly what you should do to take advantage of them.
To your success!