The Five Leading Blunders of Foolish Leaders


Jack A. Dennis

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With over 20 years of experience in successful leadership over the facilities management division for a popular Texas-Mexico based retailer, Jack Dennis had the good fortune to work for a company who believed in the value of their employees. There were scores of opportunities for learning, growing and achieving tough results. 

In internal and external climate surveys, the departments he oversaw consistently had the highest ratings for employee satisfaction in a company of over 75,000 people. Retention was good. Morale was great, despite the challenging, complicated, and sometimes dangerous work. Here are Jack’s five blunders for foolish leaders. 

It is critically important that each employee know they are valued. There is no better way to let them know than by personal affirmation from the highest levels of the company. A leader who is genuine with their praise for hard-earned achievements or outstanding performance shows she or he is informed and has a real understanding of what is happening at all levels of the organization.

Jack leading a “Family Feud” game between Managers and Supervisors in 2007.

All employees, throughout the organizational hierarchy, need to know their positive efforts are appreciated from the very top. It’s not a bother to invest time in the people, especially the front line employee to maintain a great quality organization with high morale and superb performance levels.

Following are five of the leading blunders foolish leaders typically make:

Not Reinforcing Pride.

Ask yourself this powerful question: “If one of my lower level employees was at a party and they were asked what their job is, would they respond with pride or shame?”

To motivate, they have to feel they are proud. If you can consistently make certain that each employee takes pride in their job, positive attitudes and motivation will remain high. Consider giving each position a title that speaks of importance and authority. Remind everyone how important their role is so that their title, pride, and self-esteem matches their significance.

Not Assign Leadership.

People like to be in charge of something, and being put into a role of leadership is sure way to provide a significant boost to a worker’s self-esteem and motivation.

Even if the roles are minor, relentlessly looking for ways to assign positions of leadership to each employee. Have them lead small meetings, train new employees, give guided tours of the business, or anything else to make employees feel as if they are in charge of something bigger than themselves.

It is certainly possible to have too many chiefs and not enough Indians, but assigning small roles of leadership is an effective way to reward employees for their hard work and motivate them to succeed.

No Employ Friendly Competition.

Foolish leaders don’t realize that one of the best motivators in the world is competition.

The climax of annual picnics were the competitive tug-o-war championships.

I’ve seen the powerful value of establishing friendly competition and gained quick boosts to productivity. It’s important to have some sort of incentive to win. I gave “Partnerbucks,” that were collected for time off, small bonuses, caps, jackets, extended lunch hours, gift cards, or items tailored for a specific individual’s wants.

It’s important to structure such contests so everyone works hard to improving productivity and achieve results so that the biggest winner of the competition will be the company itself.

Too Much Preaching and Not Enough Listening.

Early in my career I kept a Rolodex, and later a spreadsheet on my cellphone, with the names of my employees.

I included personal information (such as the names of their spouses, children, birthdays, anniversaries, hobbies, preferences, and other details of interest) to serve as reminders as I traveled to our offices and workplaces scattered through the regions.

The most foolish leaders stay in their comfort zones, spend too much times in their offices, or allow themselves to be trapped by “busy work.”

This forced me to listen and become with familiar with my employees as we shared visions, missions, project expectations, and strategies. It was a critical component to effective communication and served as a competitive advantage for my departments and the company.

The most foolish leaders stay in their comfort zones, spend too much times in their offices, or allow themselves to be trapped by “busy work.”

Meet the family and enjoy good times.

There is far greater value in investing the time to be accessible to the people who we are depending on to get the best work done properly. It’s important that employee’s ideas and dreams are listened to.

Some of the best concepts and plans come from the front line workers. It’s a big mistake not to value their wisdom. Give the employee a voice and listen to it.

Let Them Climb the Ladder.

The president and owner of the company I worked for would use the analogy of a ladder often.

“When they run into a wall, leaders find the ladder over it,” or “There is nothing is more motivating to an employee than to know that their hard work is pulling them up the ladder of success, one rung at a time.”

Just knowing that there is some kind of opportunity for advancement will drive employees to work harder and be more productive. Foolish leaders ignore the human nature that if a person gives their best each day, they have hope and opportunity they can advance themselves.  If they are given the training, tools, and advice they need to advance, they will put them to use for the benefit of the company.


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