All leaders, since Troy, have had an Achilles’ Heel. Exceptional leaders know their Heel. Good leaders often are oblivious to their own blind spot. A year ago I identified the first 7 Achilles’ Heels of today’s leaders. In the past year I have identified another 7 internal challenges facing today’s leaders.
- People under them don’t know how to manage up
This Achilles heel is the elephant in the room. Few on the organizational chart talk about it. Much is written about managing down, little is written about managing up.
Where or how would a person newly promoted to upper management learn about how to manage their boss or the CEO? Mentors rarely exist within a company in 2012. With four generations now in the work place for the first time in history, the oldest generation does not retire at 60. Why would they mentor their replacement? Help needs to come from outside of the organization.
- They don’t know when to come down from 30,000 feet and how long to stay
Most C-level people have an external strategic plan for growth, vision, merger and acquisition. Do they have an internal strategic plan for visibility?
This is the single most challenging issue confronting today’s executives. If they come down too often they teach the organization not to problem solve on their own. If they come down too seldom, they miss intangibles that do not show up in numbers yet contribute to the bottom line. Even in this technological world, there is no substitute for walking the floor. The question is how often and how long?
- Because they can does not mean they should
In ’96 Oprah produced the movie Beloved. It was a runaway freight train disaster. She chose the book to make in to a movie, she chose the director, and she chose to star in it. Why? Because she could. It was a painful way to spend two hours and the reviews were so painful they led to her documented weight gain.
Leaders need someone who can figuratively snap a rubber band on their wrist to stop them from doing something just because they can. They need to give someone the power the stop them. Ask and listen. And sometimes, don’t do just because.
- They worry about the wrong things
Richard Carlson wrote the bestselling book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. I don’t agree. Sweat the right small stuff.
- They don’t know when they need to be a General
General George Armstrong Custer fought the Indians. Under his command, all the American forces were killed in the battle of the Little Big Horn. History says he made three strategic errors. The warriors are the tactical pieces and the generals create the strategy in the chess game of war. It is an interdependent relationship. To be an effective leader you need to know when your value is in being the General not the Warrior.
- They let their world get too small
Michael Jordan was one of the greatest on the hardwood. As manager of the Washington Wizards, he was known more for golf than for work. Even though he played basketball better than most anyone else that ever played, it requires a different skill set to draft, to coach, and to mentor. It requires different networking to get the first call from another GM with a player to move rather than the last call. It takes different relationship building with college coaches to identify the hidden jewels in a draft. He did not work at making his world, his skill set bigger.
- They think they hire well
If a CEO keeps hiring and firing for the same position, what is the constant? Every leader has different strengths and therefore different weaknesses. Everyone’s strength may not be in hiring. A position may require different skills than it did a few years ago. If a leader has not consistently come down from the 30,000 feet perch, they may not know what skills to hire for. When a leader makes their world bigger, they are meeting people who can help them hire well.
2011 First 7 Achilles Heels of Leaders
- The need to be the sole point person
- Public flogging/private apology
- Demonstrate inconsistent leadership
- Stop envisioning a newer future
- Don’t engage team members from all levels of the organizational chart
- Stop believing the rules of communication apply to you
- Have no honest mirror that can be honest
For every Achilles’ Heel there is a way to use communication to prevent and to overcome the challenge. It is not whether or not you have an Achilles’ Heel or how many. The question is: how are you using communication to overcome the chink in your armor?