I just came back from a training session for next level leaders. A year-long program I run to develop high-potentials for their role as leaders in the organization.

The program is twelve half-days sessions of experiential hands-on growth, and we end every session with an open period, a time for each member to get the answers to the information they want to know about becoming great leaders.

I have to say this is my favorite part of each session. Attendees come armed with great and sometimes pretty tough questions about what it really takes to lead in today’s constantly shifting economy.  We spend about an hour in a pretty gut wrenchingly honest discussion about everything from our to have tough conversations, to how to make difficult decisions, to how find balance in such a demanding role.

This last session, a young-man who has only been in the program a month asked me a question that no-one has ever brought up before. He said I have only been in this program for a little while, but I notice that we only discuss what leaders should do. While that is helpful, I am just curious is there anything as leaders we shouldn’t do?

I almost laughed out loud when he asked it. Is there anything leaders today should stop doing? I am not sure I have a the time or the energy to go through that list. However, it was a great question and an important one as well.

Before answering, I asked the group what they thought. Were there things that leaders needed to stop doing, and if so I asked them to come up with a list of five. It took the group no more then ten-minutes to easily jot the mistakes and missteps they have seen leaders make, and those things they believe leaders should stop doing.

After listing to everyone’s ideas, we as a group came up with five. The five things we believe are most detrimental in leadership today, and the five things every leader must stop doing if they want to be successful.

  1. Stop Thinking This Is Business As Usual – first and foremost stop being thinking this economy is the same. The biggest mistake we felt leaders make, the biggest challenge to their success is not the typical things such as competition, regulation or lack of customer loyalty. No the biggest challenge, the biggest obstacle to success is most leaders are using out-of-date strategies and techniques. Leadership skills that were designed for a very difference economy and a very different employee. Leaders need to understand this is a new marketplace and one that calls for a different strategy and a new kind of leader.
  2. Stop Being In Charge – leaders today need to realize that employees don’t want someone to be in charge they want someone to lead the way. What is the difference? A leader who is in charge makes all the rules, all the decisions and determines the road to success. The leader who leads the way determines the destination, but allows the team members to determine the path. Thus giving team members skin in the game. In today’s marketplace your greatest competitive advantage, in fact your only competitive advantage is the quality of the people on your team. Top talent wants to feel part of your organization, they want their ideas to be heard and they want their work to matter.
  3. Stop Focusing Inside – leaders today need to realize that they majority of things that could impact the growth of their organizations lay outside the organization. Things like regulation, consumer confidence, gas prices, technology, competition and the list goes on. A change in any one of those things could radically impact your ability to be successful. So leaders need to focus less on what’s going on inside their businesses and more on what is happening outside. The role of the leader is now more like that of the captain of the ship. You have to have an amazing crew running the internal workings, so you can be focused outside looking for those things that could positively or negatively impact your ability to succeed.
  4. Stop Sticking To The Plan – as a leader you need to have a plan and you need to be focused. You just don’t need to be so committed to it that you are not open and willing to change. When leaders stop focusing inside and start seeing the opportunities and challenges happening outside the organization, they need to be open to flex and change to take advantage of those. Leadership today is about being radically focused on what you want to accomplish while still being so nimble that you easily flex and change when the marketplace demands it.
  5. Stop Spending Time Alone – in a world that is moving fast, and one where the only constant is change leaders need to stop spending time alone. Relationships are key to the success of any organization and leaders need to paving the way. Building realtionships with customers, vendors, peers and most importantly employees. The more leaders invest in others the more others will invest in the organization.

So there you have it, the top 5 things leaders need to stop doing in order to succeed no matter what this economy does. Those are our ideas what are yours? We would love to hear what you think leaders do today that negatively impacts their organizations, holds their employees back and prevents them from succeeding no matter what this economy does.

Meridith Elliott Powell is an award-winning author, keynote speaker and business strategist. With a background in corporate sales and leadership, her career expands over several industries including banking, healthcare, and finance.  Meridith worked her way up from an entry-level position to earn her seat at the C-Suite table. Meridith is a Certified Speaking Professional ©, a designation held by less than twelve percent of professional speakers, and a member of the prestigious Forbes Coaching Council.