Great questions can take you places you’ve never been before. This is true whether you are asking or being asked. Recently, someone was attempting to understand my point of view on leadership. They asked: What are the things a leader should never do?

Don’t sacrifice what matters most – I was challenged recently by my coach to be sure I was living my life for the people who would be on the front row at my funeral. Sometimes, if we’re not extremely careful, we can find ourselves living for people who won’t know or care when we’re gone. What, and who matters most to you?

Don’t get stuck in the past – Leaders should be the most future-oriented people you ever meet. A leader’s primary role in the organization is to envision a preferred future and help people get there. Many leaders can’t fulfill this role because they are prisoners of the past. Marshall Goldsmith said it best, “What got you here won’t get you there.” Learn from the past but don’t live there.

[tweet_box design=”default”]Learn from the past but don’t live there.[/tweet_box]

Don’t try to make all the decisions – Leaders who attempt to make all the decisions are stunting the growth of their people and their organization. One of the key strategies for helping others grow is to give them the opportunity and the accountability that comes only with making a decision and owning the outcome.

Don’t stop listening – My experience is the best leaders are extraordinary listeners. It is not their only gift, but it may be the one on which all others are built. Their insight and wisdom have been forged over time with a reflexive desire to listen first. You’re rarely learning when you’re talking.

[tweet_box design=”default”]You’re rarely learning when you’re talking.[/tweet_box]

Don’t stop learning – Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead. The strategies and tactics of the past will not create and sustain a vibrant future. If the leader is stagnant, the organization will be before long. Learning is the only sustainable competitive advantage.

Don’t forget, people always watch the leader – Your words are powerful – they are dwarfed by your actions. If you’ve taken the time to tell people what is important to you, you had better live like you believe it. The quickest way to impact a culture is for leaders to align their words and their actions.

Don’t miss an opportunity to encourage others – My friend, Randy Gravitt, reminds me often: A culture of encouragement will outperform a culture of criticism. When a leader praises others, people notice. Our words, for better or worse, carry extra weight. Use your power wisely.

[tweet_box design=”default”]A culture of encouragement will outperform a culture of criticism.[/tweet_box]

Don’t stop challenging the status quo – Progress is always preceded by change. What are you challenging right now? What change are you driving? Someone asked me recently how to diagnose leadership fatigue. There are many symptoms – one is when a leader stops serving as the catalyst for change. Don’t do that!

Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment – This is a huge trap for many leaders. Recently, I took an entire day to catch up on email. I have to confess – I had real mixed emotions at the end of the day. The number of emails cleared in a day is NOT a valid sign of accomplishment. Leaders get no credit for doing the wrong things well.

Don’t forget, you should be a servant first – This idea was first recorded over two thousand years ago; it was counter-cultural then and still is today: Those who want to be great (leaders) must be willing to become servants. Servant leadership is an identity to embrace, not a strategy to deploy. Great leaders serve!

Mark Miller

What are some other things you think a leader should never do?

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Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.