Many of the traits that human beings associate with their leaders are either unrealistic or lead to bad decisions and management errors. Managers should be careful to manage their image as leaders while making sure that this “perception of management” does not come at the cost of the organization. Each leadership trait has a trap that managers can fall into:
Control trap. Leaders should not believe that they can absolutely control their environments or subordinates. Unfortunately, many managers fall into this trap and start to believe in their control. As a result, managers who fall into this trap tend to ignore or discount advice or information from others that questions or challenges this notion of control. They become arrogant or overconfident in their abilities to create stability.
Competency trap. Superman isn’t real: he is a fictional character. Leaders are not superheroes with abilities that transcend other humans. Instead, they are regular people. Unfortunately, leaders who show off their mastery or who claim to be excellent have to be careful. If they show that they are not experts or masters as they claimed, they may be perceived to be inconsistent. This could be seen as a lack of integrity.
Instead of lying in order to claim competence, it is a better idea to simply showcase whatever strengths you do have. Instead of stretching the truth about your golf game, change the subject and talk about your success at some other pursuit. As a leader, you will find many opportunities to talk about other sources of strength that you actually have.
Consistency trap. Managers who refuse to admit they are wrong can cost their organizations as they recommit to failing projects and strategies. Fact usually wins against fiction, and denial is not a sustainable strategy.
Certainty trap. Leaders can express extreme, uncompromising views and values which later prove to be wrong. Statements that start with “all” or “never” are great ways to inspire followers, but they are also more likely to be wrong than more moderate statements that allow for exceptions.
Real life is messy and is typically not one-sided. Instead of “picking a side” or being extreme, the best way to assess a situation is to take time, do research, and make modest claims based on that research. This is a slow, boring process that often leads to confusing or bland results. Many potential followers will lose interest in a leader who cautiously qualifies statements. Thus, leaders often make fool-hardy claims.
These past statements are often wrong and can snare them in a certainty trap. Unfortunately, many leaders decide to stick with what they said rather than appear inconsistent or uncertain.