What causes leaders to be careless? Do we start out that way, or do we form this characteristic gradually? And if it’s gradual, what happens in a leader’s career that creates the carelessness? And what do I mean by carelessness anyway?
Careless leading means being sloppy, reckless or negligent. Now I don’t believe that any leader would be careless on purpose. For some of us, it may be a blind spot that we don’t see. For others, it may be that we aren’t connecting certain actions to a careless result.
Here are a few pitfalls that can lead to careless leading.
Leaders must listen at least as much as they speak; however, it’s best if we listen more often than we tell. Fulfilling dreams, helping others, and providing the right solution takes more than words. Hush and listen. Oh, and while you’re listening, don’t be thinking about what you want to say back!
Do you tend to say what others want to hear? Overstating our potential is certainly a temptation, but the fix is pretty simple: Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. It’s easy to see through empty or exaggerated proclamations. If not immediately then over time the truth will always surface. Be a leader who is always good for his or her word; your good word will earn you trust, and trustworthiness is one of the most valued characteristics a leader can possess.
Pointing blame is not beneath some of the highest ranking leaders. While I teach many new supervisors the art of absorbing blame, I find it fascinating – and disappointing – when I see seasoned leaders talking trash and blaming others for their blunders. It’s careless and it’s harmful to all because when we make excuses and shift the blame, we are teaching others how to deflect accountability. No leader is perfect, so own up to your mistakes. Your team will respect it, and they’ll learn to mirror your honesty and humility.
Carelessness is something we don’t like to see in others, yet we seldom look for it within ourselves. Or maybe we don’t think our carelessness will hurt anyone. You need not look past the daily headlines to see how others’ careless actions and words always eventually come to light.
Living it Out
As you reflect on your own leadership and relationships, take some time to reflect on your answers to the following questions:
- How do I tend to be careless with my words, and how could that be affecting those around me? What do I need to do differently next time?
- When am I tempted to tell others what they want to hear? Are there times when I tend to sidestep the full truth?
- What am I struggling with right now? Am I owning or blaming? What do I need to own, and how should I communicate this ownership to my team?