The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make

  • Friday, July 28, 2006 - Goke Ilesanmi
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The author of this text entitled The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, Dr. Hans Finzel is the executive director of CBInternational, a church- planting and leadership training ministry currently operating in over 60 countries across the world. Finzel had earlier served as a pastor in Long Beach, California and spent a decade in Vienna, Austria as a trainer and administrator for CBInternational in Eastern Europe. He is an author of several books, among which is Empowered Leaders (Word). Finzel and his family live in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

In this book, this author reflects that top-flight leaders are not born, but they learn by example. According to him, poor leadership habits spawn new generations of poor leaders. Or they create enough discomfort that the leader figures out to do it right.

Finzel describes the ten most common leadership mistakes as: the top-down attitude; dirty delegation; putting paperwork before peoplework; communication chaos; the absence of affirmation; missing the culture clues; no room for mavericks; success without successors; dictatorship in decision-making; and failure to focus on the future.

According to this author, leadership is dangerous, and the world history can best be written by studying the lives of great and terrible leaders and what they accomplished through others. Finzel says those who are in leadership position can on the one hand move men, women, and mountains for tremendous good, adding that at the same time, those in leadership position hold in their hands the power to do irreparable damage to their followers by the mistakes they make.

Finzel submits that the greater your sphere of leadership, the more your impact on the world around you, stressing that the more people you lead, the greater the potential damage caused through your poor decisions and actions. This is one of the sobering realities you must face when you take up the mantle of leadership, he asserts.

This author says good leaders seem to be a scarce commodity today, and there are many openings but fewer and fewer good candidates. According to him, this book is not intended to answer the question of leadership scarcity, but rather to look at what makes a good leader go bad, or better still, what habits to avoid if you want to help fill the gap and replenish the great leadership famine.

Finzel says his informal survey of leaders suggests that people fall into leadership more by accident than by design, adding that through whatever circumstances that led them to that point, they are thrown into leadership and become reluctant leaders.

Structurally, this book is segmented into ten chapters based on the identified top ten mistakes made by leaders. Chapter one identifies the top-down attitude as the number one leadership hang-up. According to Finzel, "I intended to save the best for last, like a top-ten countdown. But on the second thought, I realise that this top-down-attitude problem is like the mother of all leadership hang-ups. If you have it you will spread it to everything your leadership hands touch. So it must come first as foundational to everything else I will observe about how not to lead."

This author says the top-down approach to leadership is based on the military model of barking orders to weak underlings. According to this great motivator, top-down attitude manifests in abusive authority, deplorable delegation, lack of listening, dictatorship in decision-making, lack of letting go, and egocentric manner.

Finzel submits that the attitude comes naturally to most people, adding that servant leadership is much more rare. He adds that effective leaders see themselves at the bottom of an inverted pyramid.

Chapter two of this book is entitled Putting paperwork before peoplework. According to Finzel here, the greater the leadership role, the less time there seems to be for people; and the greater the leadership role, the more important peoplework is. He adds that people are opportunities, not interruptions, and it is only through association that you can achieve transformation. This author says people tend to put paperwork before peoplework because seen results take priority over the unseen relationship; taskwork pushes aside idle talk; the material world predominates over the immaterial world; obsessive-compulsive behaviour; relationship don’t fit our deadlines mentality, etc.

In chapters three to five, Finzel examines the concepts of the absence of affirmation; lack of room for mavericks; and dictatorship in decision-making.

Chapter six is entitled Dirty delegation. Here, this motivational discourse expert interprets dirty delegation as refusal to relax and let go. According to this author, over-managing is one of the great cardinal sins of poor leadership. He adds that nothing frustrates those working for you more than sloppy delegation with too many strings attached, suggesting that delegation should match each worker’s follow-through ability. According to Finzel, most leaders refuse to delegate as a result of the fear of losing authority; the fear of work being done poorly; fear of work being done better; unwillingness to take the necessary time; fear of depending on others; and lack of training and positive experience. This author identifies four stages of delegation as assignment, authority, accountability and affirmation.

In chapters seven to nine, Finzel notionally X-rays the concepts of communication chaos; missing the clues of corporate culture; and success without successors.

The last chapter of this text, that is, chapter ten, is entitled Failure to focus on the future. According to this author here, the future is rushing at us at breakneck speed, and a leader’s concentration must not be on the past nor on the present, but on the future. Finzel stresses that vision is an effective leader’s chief preoccupation, adding that organisations are reinvented with new generations of dreamers. Quoting Leroy Eims in this chapter, this author says "a leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees further than others see, and who sees before others do". Finzel also stresses the need for change as far as leadership is concerned. According to him, "Change is inevitable; not to change is a sure sign of imminent extinction… Leaders who don’t change with the changing climate of our future world will…find themselves only a museum attraction."

Stylistically, Finzel’s efforts are worthy of artistic commendation here. The language maintains some simplicity, and the syntax well-ordered. To achieve notional conviction and analytical reinforcement, he employs a lot of biblical allusions, classical/literary allusions, quotes, etc. To ensure easy study and understanding, he uses boxed précis and Powerpoints where he showcases the major conceptual flesh of his messages.

What’s more, he also employs a lot of graphic embroidery to achieve visual reinforcement of understanding on readers’ part.

If you aspire to become an effective leader, instead of seeking oracular intervention for your aspiration, the solution lies in having a copy of this text. It is just irresistible.

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