Great leaders rarely begin that way. And becoming one isn’t about magic or luck. In my decades of working with sports and business leaders, I have seen how you can move toward great leadership by avoiding these 5 common mistakes—especially if you’re new at this.
1. Have all the answers. When Arthur Blank bought the Atlanta Falcons, he was new to pro football. He didn’t assume that his success as co-founder of Home Depot would turn around the mediocre team. He asked the Falcons players to tell him what they needed for success. Then he went a step farther by actually staying with them in their dorm during training camp. He learned the mattresses were so thin that players were sleeping on the floor for greater comfort! Players could barely get wet in the shower because the showerheads were way too small to fit their frames. Arthur changed the team by being open to new and unexpected knowledge, and acting on it. New leaders have to have the courage to ask the tough questions and hear the hard answers.
2. Neglect curiosity. This is so important if you want to drive collaboration and creativity. Curiosity starts with you. If you are defensive or indifferent to new ideas, and neglect asking questions to find out more and listen with an open heart, don’t expect your team members to challenge the status quo.
3. Playing it too safe. Innovation requires leadership by example. Steve Koonin, CEO of the Atlanta Hawks NBA team, says during our podcast that he gave the green light to market a game with a tie in to a dating app. Swipe Right Night got the Hawks all kinds of national publicity, buzz among its target audience of millennials and a sponsorship with Budweiser. “That idea couldn’t have gotten done unless it came from me, because of fear,” Steve says. “It’s sets a tone that you can take some risks.”
4. Damning the past. New leaders can be so focused on managing necessary change that they portray themselves as the hero of a better future. “Most of the people you will work with were there during the past,” notes Steve, who worked at Coca-Cola and Turner before the Hawks. “If you make it sound that everything that happened was bad and everything that is going to happen under you is good, you’re going to disenfranchise a lot of people. I’ve made the mistake of not paying the right homage to the past because I was so interested in getting to the future. You have to balance the positive in building on the past.”
5. Isolating. A leader spends time with those whose work determines the team’s success. Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo says his open door policy is a big key to his success. “Time translates into them trusting you and understanding who you are,” says Izzo. Think of yourself as a coach huddling your team on a regular huddle. Apple and Facebook use regular meetings to drive progress and create accountability. Showing up builds trusts.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
Mistakes are part of leadership and life. By being aware of these 5 common mistakes—and fostering awareness, curiosity, boldness, experience and unity—a new leader will build success from the get-go. You’ll be on your way to inspiring lasting respect.
The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Her company offers training and coaching programs to help leaders unleash their potential, including: Game Changer Negotiation Training, which teaches business people a framework for successful negotiating; The Energized Leader training, which teaches people how to manage their energy to achieve focus and freedom; and a monthly coaching program, Game Changer Leadership Huddles, to help members recharge their purpose and mindset. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.