5 Addictions that Great Leaders Avoid to the Benefit of Their People

Have you ever put in a busy day at work, come home exhausted, and thought to yourself:

I did a lot of stuff today, but did I accomplish anything that really mattered?

Express this thought to a young child and she will respond with a confused look on her face, “I didn’t get any work done today, but at least I didn’t work hard!”

Consider your people…

Do you think they have experienced busy, yet non-productive days in recent weeks?

Of course these days occasionally happen, but string enough of them together and it will zap an employee’s energy & engagement.

Now consider yourself…

If you answered “yes” to my last question, is it possible that you are the one zapping employee energy & engagement?

If you answered “yes” again, read on…

(If you answered “no” to either, consider passing this on to someone who would have responded in the affirmative to both questions.)

Here are 5 leader addictions that can leave you and your people feeling frustrated, exhausted, and unfulfilled.

1. Addicted to New and Shiny

Some leaders, have never met an idea they didn’t like. Here are a couple of examples:

  • The leader reads the latest book and suddenly the entire organization is tasting the latest flavor of the month.
  • The leader holds a meeting and a dozen new ideas – that eventually turn into work – are launched.
  • The leader attends a conference and the ‘buzz’ words presented that day become temporarily infused in his or her daily language.
  • Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that leaders shouldn’t learn new things. Of course they should.

What I’m saying is that leaders can become addicted to chasing the newest and shiniest ideas. Sometimes the organization is ready to turn the page and take on a new approach, other times a new concept is needed to catalyze the group to get something done, but many times a leader becomes infatuated with the new and shiny just because it is new and shiny.

A solution is of no value if it doesn’t solve a specific problem. Your people simply become tired of chasing the latest great idea.

2. Addicted to Urgency

Some of us love urgency. We love putting out fires. They make us feel useful, needed, and perhaps a bit important. Many leaders are the same way, and if they haven’t paid the price to truly determine what is most important, they will spend their day racing from meeting to meeting or issue to issue without really assessing the relative importance of each situation.

What’s the result?

They are busy, but unproductive.

Yes, they’ve filled the day, but they (and their people) feel unfulfilled.

3. Addicted to Routine

My grandfather delivered milk in Chicago. Everyday, he traveled the same route through the city’s streets. I imagine that he was up early every morning following a well worn path. He likely could navigate his route from memory.

It was routine – it was comfortable.

This works well for milk delivery, but not necessarily for team or organization growth. Leaders should look at their days to see if they have fallen into the delivery route trap. Unlike #1 above, they may have become so complacent that they’ve created a milk deliveryman culture.

Perhaps a new routine, a new goal, or a new challenge is needed.

4. Addicted to Activity

Have you ever sat in a meeting where each person reports to the boss what they are working on?

These can be really painful sessions.

One-by-one, the attendees report on the activities they are performing. Each subsequent presenter goes a bit longer to demonstrate how busy he or she is. The leader seems pleased.

The leader’s people are very busy – they’ve got a lot going on.

Week after week, they have the same discussions with rarely the so what? question being asked.

Leaders need to remember that organizations don’t exist to simply do things. They exist to deliver results. Some leaders get these two confused. They aren’t the same things.

The game isn’t to create the longest possible ‘to do’ list and check as much stuff off as possible.

The game is to win on something that really matters.

5. Addicted to Talking

Some leaders love to hear themselves talk. They hold meetings and do the majority of the talking.

They conduct one-on-one performance reviews and dominate the conversations.

The problem with talking too much is that you often learn nothing.

If a leader wants to tap into an employee’s passion then the leader must learn how to ask good questions and listen with the intent of understanding – not with the intent of responding.

Understanding and tapping into an employees passions is what allows employee to work crazy hard, be completely exhausted, and still not be demoralized.

Back to you…

The next time you are traveling home and feel completely exhausted. Take a moment to examine why you feel that way.

Are you worn out because you have simply been working hard on very important things.
Or, are you and your people showing the signs of one of these addictions?
Are your team members driving home with the same feelings?

Here’s a tool that you can use to remember the 5 addictions (in the hopes of avoiding them).