3 Leadership Traps Every Entrepreneur Needs to Be Aware of

Man puts his leg in a trap

By Thuy and Milo Sindell

In November 2017, The New York Times reported on two Navy collisions that brought to light missed warnings and chains of errors. Seven sailors were killed in June when the destroyer Fitzgerald collided with a container ship near Japan. In August, the collision of the John S. McCain and an oil tanker left 10 more sailors dead.

“The collisions were avoidable,” Adm. John M. Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said in a summary of the reports released by the Navy.

Although the example of the Navy collisions is extreme, it highlights that even in the most seemingly rigorous working environments, grave mistakes can be made. Every leader tries to do their absolute best. But, in high-stress situations, amplified adrenaline, competing sources of data, unforeseen events, and red-alert urgency often lead to bad decisions.

After you’ve recovered from these situations, you’re able to use hindsight to learn and improve. But what if you knew what to do before the mistake occurred?

As a leader, preparation can help you avoid some big mistakes. You just need to know what to be on the lookout for. By being aware of signs that you’re heading for trouble, you can make corrections in time. The trick is knowing what types of situations tend to trip up leaders. Here are three scenarios that leaders need to be aware of and how to deal with them:

1. When you’re overly busy

As a leader, information is your friend. Knowing what’s going on and being able to properly process all the details is key. However, when you’re dealing with too many situations at one time, everything becomes overwhelming.

This is why you need to be careful when times are especially busy. If you’re flooded with reports from your employees day after day, you can become confused—and important information is likely to fall through the cracks.

Monitor yourself and how overwhelmed you’re feeling. Take note of the optimum amount of tasks you can deal with in one day and still efficiently lead. For instance, if you come into the office one morning and are faced with an unbearable number of emails and several meetings, prioritize. Set up an automatic response in your email explaining you’re unavailable for the day. Then go over the agendas for each meeting and determine if you actually need to be there.

The key is to try to unload unnecessary information from your brain. This way, you have only what you need to know occupying your mind so you can make better decisions for the company.

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2. When you ignore hidden strengths

Leaders motivate their employees to be better. They offer professional development opportunities so employees can gain skills to improve their careers; however, they don’t always focus on the right skills.

Often, employees are encouraged to address their weaknesses, but this isn’t very realistic. For instance, it takes a lot of time and effort for someone who isn’t coordinated to become a mediocre dancer; the same is true of professional skills.

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