All Leaders Make Mistakes

Below is the Introduction to a book I am writing; All Leaders Make Mistakes: The Five Phases and How to Lead Through Each One. I would love everyone’s thoughts.

It’s hard, almost impossible to be a universally beloved leader. There are many different styles of leadership, best suited to different phases of a company’s growth phases. If your leadership style is more suited to a start-up company (where you have had success) and you land a role in a mature, performing company — your leadership style might “not be everyone’s cup of tea”, as the Brits like to say.

The forming–storming–norming–performing model of group development was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, who mentioned that these phases are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results.

Tuckman’s model can also be used in describing phases of a company’s growth and the preferred accompanying leadership styles. A forming or start-up company needs a passionate, enthusiastic leader who is resilient and optimistic. A storming company is still in its early growth phase many times will find itself with systems and infrastructure issues. During this stage of business, the best leader is someone who is extremely sales and marketing focused or someone who is about creating systems and structure for expansion. Both are possible and necessary and rare in one individual, for a storming company it will usually start with a focus on sales and marketing, and later on shift focus on systems and structure — which may mean a change in leadership or hiring someone senior to join the company with the skills you lack.

The norming company should not be thought of as a company which has leveled out. This company works like clockwork. However, the next phase of company is performing, which if not managed right could cause the company to become a non-performing or even dying company. When a company is performing like clockwork, you would think you would need a level and steady leadership style. The opposite is actually true. You actually need an innovative, risk taking leader to steer the ship. The performing stage company is one that is in high growth, and it will need a charismatic, inspiring leader.

Depending on the phase the company is in, you may sometimes find your leadership style in conflict with the company culture. That’s okay and you need to expect that. It means you have two choices. One, you will need to find companies in the same phase of development, that suit your leadership style. Or two, learn how to adjust your leadership style to the situation. In my opinion, the latter is much more enjoyable because you get to ride the phases with the company you’re with, while growing as a leader.

If you think about the leadership style best suited to where the company is at, which do you think you are best suited towards? If you think about the next phase the company will enter into you, you have a few months or years to develop those leadership skills starting now.

What leadership style does your company need from you during each phase:

Forming — Unwavering Enthusiasm

Storming — Dogged Growth Mindedness

Norming — Structure & Innovation

Performing — Controlled Growth Mindedness

Non-Performing — It’s All About The Numbers

Where ever your company is today, even if you decide you need to work on the skills and traits the company needs from you today, I ask that you read the section of the book that represents your company’s next phase. For example; if the company you lead is in the Storming Phase — read the traits of the Norming Phase first.

A word about the Non-Performing stage. The stage after Non-Performing can be Storming or Performing. I would choose to develop the traits of a Storming Leader, as you can easily dial it down and perform well as a leader in a performing company. Use that time to get your head around every possible number in the business and start being more innovative.

Unwavering Enthusiasm

I sometimes get the sense that start-up CEOs have to be a little wacky. They are optimistic to a fault. They are the innovative, expressive, passionate ideas people. Their focus can be described as completely unfocused at times, unless they hire the right person alongside them. They are dreamers

Leaders with Unwavering Enthusiasm find it easy to enroll and inspire others on their team. They have an idea or vision they can almost touch. They need your help to get there, and they promise a thrilling ride where you could really interrupt an industry or even create an entirely new business or product category.

Leaders taking a company through the forming stage will commonly make these mistakes: -

Recruiting Wrong (Chapter One)

Overpromising (Chapter Two)

Head in the clouds (Chapter Three)

Underpricing (Chapter Four)

Dogged Growth Mindedness

When your company is in this phase, the focus is on making sales, gaining market share. Where It’s All About the Numbers Leaders have a focus on balance sheets and gross and net profit, Dogged Growth Minded leaders are all about expansion, getting new customers, selling more volume, increasing monthly sales revenues sometimes to the detriment of profit and they make their people work harder and longer hours.

A leader taking a company through its storming stage is going to make these mistakes: -

Not paying enough attention to your people (Chapter Five)

Doing anything for the sale (Chapter Six)

Not Thinking Things Through (Chapter Seven)

Structure and Innovation (Chapter Eight)

Controlled Growth Mindedness

Your business is a well-oiled machine. You are surrounded by growth-minded team members, who grow the company at a steady, consistent basis. As a leader, it may almost feel like you’ve arrived.

Don’t get too comfortable, there are many things you need to be doing safeguarding against these mistakes: -

Valuing loyalty, over performance (Chapter Nine)

Being Lackadaisical (Chapter Ten)

Not disturbing the status quo (Chapter Eleven)

It’s all about the Numbers

In this phase, the business is suffering. It could be due to external factors outside your control, or factors directly attributed to you, or a predecessor. This is probably the most critical time in a business lifecycle, and you need to be laser focused and determined. You will make decisions based on immediate impact versus down the line. You will be all about producing profit and quarterly results, and you will feel the pressure of making sure the expenses are paid.

Shouldering this load, you will be under enormous stress and prone to making these mistakes;

Not investing in your people (Chapter Twelve)

Not seeing the bigger vision (Chapter Thirteen)

Being only about numbers (Chapter Fourteen)

Showing your stress (Chapter Fifteen)

If you are interested in knowing when my book is available on Amazon, let me know by leaving a comment below, and I will be in touch.