6 Leadership Traps To Avoid Disaster

The past few weeks we had a groundhog set up shop beneath our front porch. He dug some deep holes to create a path under the porch and seemed to be constantly escaping our view. Then the critter decided to eat our wire that connects to an outside pole lamp. And that broke the straw for us. We need that light and we decided it was necessary to trap our groundhog. Of course once trapped, we were going to bring him up to a wooded area and set him free. So we set up a trap filled with food right next to one of the dirt holes. And we waited.

In leadership we can sometimes fall prey to traps we don’t see in front of us. Some of these traps may be deliberately set but most are just part of our daily routines. Knowing what traps can trip up a leader and anticipating where they will be set can empower leaders to work around them.

Here are six leadership traps to avoid disaster:

1. Unclear Role Responsibilities and Goals

The surest way for a leader to get stuck in an unexpected trap is to not have a clear understanding of their job responsibilities. How can we hold ourselves accountable when we don’t know the parameters of our work requirements? Every leader should have goals and objectives to work towards that fold into a larger team vision. A job description is also so helpful even if it needs to be adjusted as the year progresses.

To hold themselves accountable, leaders need a clear understanding of their role .

2. Mismatched Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication

When our non-verbal cues are different from the words we are using people don’t believe our words. They interpret our message by focusing on our facial expressions, tone and body language. Some helpful hints with our non-verbal communication is:

  • Use your eyes and look directly at a colleague to make a connection.
  • Smile if you are sharing an important message to show your enthusiasm.
  • Choose a tone of care and evenness, not too loud and not too soft.
  • Avoid finger pointing or severe hand gestures to make your point.

  • Mismatched verbal and non-verbal cues can confuse the message a leader is sharing.

    3. Missing Skills or Experiences

    A big trap for a leader is not possessing the necessary skills or experience to perform their job successfully. If you find yourself with a gap in knowledge then decide your best way to obtain the missing skills. Maybe it is time to ask your boss to take on a new and challenging project. Perhaps you want to sign-up for a training course. Or sometimes just catching up on our reading in a particular area can do the trick. Just take action.

    4. Lack of Trust With Team Members

    To create trust with others we first need to be trustworthy and then develop trusting work relationships with our co-workers and bosses. How do we become more trustworthy leaders ?

  • We follow through on what we say we are going to do.
  • We share all available information.
  • We include team members in bigger decisions so they can see their value.
  • We reach out and get to know our colleagues’ interests and concerns.

  • To cultivate trust with team members, leaders need to be trustworthy first.

    5. Inability To Be Flexible

    When leaders are not able to see the perspectives of others and consider the ideas and suggestions from their co-workers, they can fall into a deep trap. Carol Dweck talks about the importance of a “growth mindset” to better deal with continued learning, openness and our ability to overcome our failures. Lead with an eye to curiosity and development.

    Related: The Worst Thing Leaders Can Do in Times of Anxiety

    6. Not Building Enough Time To Think and Dream

    All work and no dreaming time stunts a leader’s growth and prevents a leader from replenishing themselves. It is a huge trap not to set time aside for planning your next steps. There are many ways to dream:

  • Write out what is going well.
  • Identify the fun and enjoyable parts of your job.
  • Make a list of lessons learned from some missteps.
  • Meditate to prepare for dreaming.

  • No matter how you go about thinking and dreaming just make sure to do it.

    Finally, an update on my groundhog- he is nowhere to be seen. The furry animal avoided my trap like a plague.

    What leadership traps do you try to avoid? How did you overcome them?