5 Ways in Which Leaders Stifle Their Own Growth

And how it affects the organization and its people

Vishal Kataria
Oct 15, 2019 · 4 min read

eaders are the engines behind the growth of their company (or business vertical).

As a leader, your role is strategic and tactical. Strategic to set long-term goals for your company. Tactical to enable people to take specific actions in order to achieve those goals.

All leaders want to strengthen their strategic and tactical games. Yet, most can barely think a day or week ahead, let alone a quarter or five years.

This nano-myopic approach also affects their people who adopt the same way of working. Nobody thinks about the company’s future. Growth is haphazard and nobody knows what to do when the decline begins.

If you’re a leader stuck in such a situation, here are five things you could be doing wrong.

1. You think nothing can work without you.

The most toxic thing a leader can do is to micro-manage everything.

Leaders who are afraid that their people will make mistakes, or who demand perfection, dictate their people’s daily actions.

In the short term, things go according to plan. But in the long term, people fall into the habit of getting answers on a platter. Then leaders complain that people cannot do anything without them.

Mistakes are not just reversible, they’re also a great source of learning. As a leader, you must build a culture where people learn from mistakes instead of running from them. Learning leads to progress, which matters more than perfection.

Groom people to find solutions and become self-reliant. Only then can you move on to larger things.

2. You expect everything to work without you.

The other end on the scale of micro-management is to not manage anything.

Many leaders assume that delegation simply means assigning a task to someone and expecting them to get on the ball. “Get me results, I don’t care how,” they say.

But when people commit mistakes or don’t complete the tasks on time, the exasperated leaders take the reins back in their own hands.

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As a leader, you cannot expect people to automatically start caring about what matters to you. Your tactical role involves making them responsible for these tasks, communicating it to them, and tracking their progress.

Proactive management helps people to achieve their goals which in turn, contributes towards your company’s goals.

3. You believe that your way is the only way.

Positive results make people succumb to the confirmation bias: the tendency to interpret all evidence as confirmation of their existing beliefs.

Leaders are human beings after all. When they experience positive results, they demand that everyone do things exactly the way they want. This stifles creativity and fuels a culture of laziness and sycophancy.

The result is that people who should leave, stay, and the ones that should stay, leave.

Proactive people can help you refine processes that lead to better outcomes. Encourage such initiatives through your words and deeds and your achievers will carry the company forward on their strong shoulders.

4. You don’t think you need to reinvent yourself.

It’s no use being a big fish if the pond is tiny.

Leaders might surround themselves with sycophants and believe they have all the answers. They refuse to see the red flags of change — even the ones that stare them in the face.

Eventually, complacency creeps into the entire company, which becomes a sitting duck for the competition.

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Corporate behemoths are getting disrupted by new entrants more rapidly than ever. Answers that work today will not stay relevant tomorrow because the questions will change. It’s essential for you to know when they do so that you can adapt accordingly.

Disrupt yourself rather than getting disrupted by others.

5. You think rules don’t apply to you.

Leaders expecting people to follow processes without themselves doing so are like policemen who break the law just because they can. It doesn’t just build resentment, it also throws the entire system of law and order into a mess.

Rules and processes are important because they streamline how people function and make outcomes more predictable.

When you create rules, set an example by following them. Make what you do worth imitating because that’s what your people will do.

Summing Up

As a leader, it’s time you stopped working as a glorified employee and started guiding people to enhance their skills.

Such a change in mindset will change your actions. When you get out of your people’s and your own way, you will find the time and energy to do what benefits your company in the long-term.

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