Al Gore’s famous words ‘an inconvenient truth’ described the negative impact many of our actions have on the environment. Similarly, for leaders, rather than enabling success, their actions can put a handbrake on it. Knowing which actions (or lack thereof) are hampering achievement is important for leaders to continuously improve.

“We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at the truth we find bitter.” – Denis Diderot

In our work with over 750 organisations in 76 countries, we have had the privilege of working with thousands of leaders, and we have seen many patterns or habits that separate the good from the not so good.

We have identified three key inconvenient truths which leaders could benefit from addressing.

  1. The don’t-do list

    Most people will have a list of things they need to do each day, week, month and year, ideally linked to a specific set of performance measures aligned with the organisation’s priority goals. However, there are items that sneak onto the to-do list that aren’t crucial or urgent, and take up valuable leadership time.

    Leaders should spend some time each month getting clear on a ‘don’t-do list’ to help eliminate distractions and time wasters. The most valuable resource we all have is time – great leaders understand where they need to spend it to galvanise the team to deliver results.

  2. Don’t uncover and address blindspots

    We all see the world in a way based on our unique set of experiences. This is limiting, in that there will be things we don’t understand or cannot see because of blindspots we have developed over time.

    Great leaders seek ways to understand their blindspots and make improvements where they need to. This is where coaching can play a powerful role. In the Johari Window model, the goal is to move red items to the blue area.

    Some blindspots that many leaders fail to see or fail to act on include:

    • Not ‘really’ listening to others;
    • Micromanagement leading to a lack of empowerment and engagement;
    • Not involving leaders in key decisions in the right way;
    • Being unaware of ‘how you show up’ and its effect on the team; and
    • Not seeking help or saying no when you have too much on your plate.

    A good starting point to uncovering your blindspots is to simply ask individuals in your team if they can think of a blindspot you might have which could help you become a better leader (if actioned).

    It’s important to thank them genuinely for the feedback, without rebutting or refuting their view otherwise you may find it difficult to receive honest feedback next time.

  3. Uncomfortable issues are not dealt with

    There are some important issues that, if not addressed swiftly, can cause real damage later. These issues often get swept into the ‘too hard basket’ or into the ‘I’ll get to it later’ pile for too long.

    Examples include:

    • Not holding people to account, and creating a culture where underperformance becomes acceptable
    • Behaviours that don’t support business values are left unchecked, undermining and diminishing those business values.

    Uncovering the truth, no matter how inconvenient it might be, is a critical component of effective leadership. By addressing the three inconvenient truths called out in this article, you will be well on your way to becoming a better leader.