The Single Biggest Mistake Type-A Leaders Make


Highly productive Type-A's often rise to the ranks of leadership, whether we are prepared to scale our impact or not (usually not). Generally the first stop after the promotion is the new office, which is for the most part where we will spend nearly all of our time in the coming months, with the exception of mandatory meetings. This represents the single biggest mistake that is almost universal among new, traditionally Type-A leaders: blissfully productive solitude, known to the rest of the team as: rogue isolation.

Refining details, whipping up spreadsheets, and checking off tasks is the bee's knees for us folks. That's how we ended up with a promotion in the first place, which simply further reinforced that we should continue our proven formula for results.

We can create, create, create. Whether it's a full-color and scale-accurate plan for better utilization of office space or the most neat and grammatically correct meeting minutes you've ever seen, if left to our own devices this is what we do.

Unfortunately, the "Office Inventory Enhanced Utilization Framework" with companion forms for checking out 3-hole-punches and tracking copy paper usage isn't exactly the priority. In fact, it's a massive distraction from anything that matters.

Rule #1: 90% of the time that you spend alone in front of a screen is working against your organization's mission. 

While I will concede that some leadership roles are much more project-oriented than people-oriented, such as a CFO or CMO, I would still venture that if you are a typical "red" personality, you are likely wasting a massive number of hours alone.

So, when you find yourself slightly high from reformatting the employee manual, you must brutally remind yourself that you are failing in your role, shut off your computer, and go be with the human beings right outside your door.

"Leadership" is a pretty direct term. You are leading...someone or many someones somewhere. Even if your someones aren't employees, they exist in some other format and you are supposed to bring them along.

This does not happen by sitting alone with technology. I promise, I've tried. It occurs through relationship capital, which as we know is culled through trust, rapport, transparency, and excitement. If I trust you and the vision is palpable and exciting, I will follow you, write up reports for you, and participate in your overly rigid meetings.

One of the best exercises I attempted (several times) in my leadership role was to spend an entire day without isolating distraction. No phone calls, emails, word processing, number crunching, budget reviewing, or folder reorganizing from 9 AM to 5 PM.

The void was filled with critical circles of people: direct reports, key stakeholders, frontline team members, superiors, peers, community contacts, customers, and volunteers.

Critical is also a pretty straight forward term. Your fate lies in your relationships with these people. It only makes sense then to step away from the keyboard, stop volunteering for non-critical solo projects, and begin investing in the human beings that will determine whether you're a leadership asset or just a Peter who was overpromoted.

Unfortunately, most companies won't take the risk of un-promoting you, so it's sink or swim time.