The 5 Things I Realised I Had Done Wrong As A Leader

Photo: Keystone / Getty
Finn Kelly

Entrepreneur Warren Rustand, a giant of US business and public policy, and one of my personal idols, was running the final session of a year-long program at the Entrepreneur’s Organisation when I had a massive “Aha!” moment.

I realised that I’ve done some things the wrong way over the last year. The reason we hadn’t reached our goals was my fault. I’d abdicated from the leadership role we required to fulfil the vision we had as a team.

So what were the mistakes I made? Well, here are the top five and more importantly, how to fix them. You’ll see they all have to do with people.

1. I didn’t continuously remind people of the vision.

When you are a small business with big goals there are constant challenges, periods of uncertainty and moments of lack of belief.

The difference between succeeding and failing is how much everyone believes in your vision. Your job as a leader is to constantly repeat your values, your purpose and your BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) until people live and breathe them.

2. I let the team change the goals

One by-product of not nailing the vision is that the team won’t perform at its best and as such won’t be on track to reach its goals. You then get into a situation where people want to give up or change the goalposts. If you do, then there’s no chance of reaching your longer term goals and fulfilling your vision.

3. I hired the wrong people & did not get them sitting on the right seats on the bus

Two reasons businesses grow are a lack of cash and having the wrong people. Hire the wrong person and you lose cash too. Unfortunately, you also create another problem – you destroy your culture.

In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great he talks about the importance of getting the right people on the bus and ensuring that they are in the right seats.

I have the most amazing team at WE, but unfortunately I didn’t always give them the chance to perform at their best by putting them into roles that they weren’t potentially ready for.

4. I made decisions on people, not the vision and values

When you are not constantly repeating your purpose and values you can sometimes get caught making decisions based on relationships with people. Your values are the moral compass of the company and your purpose is how you are trying to change the world. Every decision you make should reference those things and not individuals.

5. I didn’t let the team know what I was feeling

A common problem for men, which is exacerbated when you’re a leader. We think the best thing to do is to keep all emotions to ourselves and try to work out our problems on our own. The danger in that people don’t know you are troubled by something and may just think that you don’t really care at all.

I am troubled every day about reaching our goals. When you have good people in your team, the best thing you can do is communicate, so they can help and support you.

It’s very confronting to have an Aha! moment and then write about it. But going back to point five, it’s important that my great team at WE to know that as a leader, we have these moments. We constantly self-evaluate to keep improving and get one step closer to our vision. I hope you have an Aha! moment too and it helps you reach your goals.

* Finn Kelly is the CEO and co-founder of award-winning Gen Y financial advisory firm, Wealth Enhancers, along with the parent company, premier private wealth management firm, WE Private.

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