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7 leadership faults entrepreneurs should avoid

July 12th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Robert E. Kaplan

Robert E. Kaplan

Entrepreneurs at the helm of high growth companies face a lot of challenges, not least how to be an effective business leader. Many have superb technology skills, great ideas and passion but never ran a business before. Their very strengths can derail their leadership.

So say Robert E. Kaplan and Robert B. Kaiser in their book, “Fear Your Strengths,” which says establishing a good leadership mindset is essential not just to entrepreneurs, but to leaders at all levels – even those at the very top of established companies.

Kaplan, president of Greensboro, NC-based Kaplan DeVries Inc., a consulting firm specializing in intensive assessment of executives, tells the TechJournal leaders of all stripes should avoid the following:

1. Don’t make big strategic decisions unilaterally. “Know when not to trust your judgement completely,” he adds. “Before you make a big strategic move, an acquisition, launching a new product or service, check your judgement with people you respect and trust.”

Those might include the CEO of another company in the high tech sector – one reason tech hubs, accelerators and incubators can be so useful as early home bases for tech startups. But in any event, Kaplan says, “Make sure you have friendships, however you form them, with peers you can go to for advice.

2. Don’t hire only like-types. Even if someone is a really bright go-getter like you, don’t hire them ┬áif they’re not qualified to do the job. Also, Kaplan notes, sometimes the “strategic type” of leader does not always see the value of operational persons who have to implement the plan. If you’re not good at management and you look down on those who are, you may not hire or support them. “That’s a good way to get yourself in trouble,” Kaplan says.

3. Don’t do other people’s jobs. Don’t micromanage. Former President Jimmy Carter was a nuclear engineer and a Naval officer, but pundits looking at his failed presidency pointed out that he tried to micro-manage everything, right down to who played on the White House tennis courts. That didn’t turn out so well for him in the long run.

4. Don’t be allergic to process. “Don’t equate process with bureaucracy,” says Kaplan. “Types who like to be spontaneous are prejudiced toward doing things in a regular and orderly way. A lot of what gets in any manager’s way is their own biases and prejudicial attitudes.”

5. Don’t be abusive to other people. That includes not making a habit of keeping other people waiting.

Most of us have worked for abusive bosses at one time or another. Many executives have so much power they can get away with it, but it’s bad management. Personally, we worked for an abusive boss about a decade ago who got away with his abrasive style for quite some time before it cost him his job. “Be as direct as you want,” Kaplan suggests, “as long as you’re constructive.”

book cover6. Don’t monopolize conversations, you’ll suck all the oxygen out of the tent. We don’t know about you, but there are times when we have to mentally remind ourselves that you learn more listening than talking.

7. Don’t stock your board with yes-men. That’s pretty self-explanatory.

Kaplan also suggests a few “To-dos.”

Do know your own craziness and know your own anxiety, for instance. You want to avoid acting out of fear of failure, inadequacy, and sensitivity to being rejected. “Executives who are effective know the reality of their own crazy tendencies and manage accordingly, Kaplan says.

The book, “Fear Your Strength,” offers a more in depth look at managing your leadership mindset.



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