the most frustrating choice managers make

The Most Frustrating Mistake Managers Make

When managers see their role as a small cog in a bigger system they do whatever they can to fit in. They trade power for conformity.

Their team yearns for bold vision, challenging questions, and scaffolding support. But they look up and see weakness, which makes them feel weaker and diminishes results.

Nothing saddens me more than potential leaders who give away their power. Feeling powerless to change the game, they buckle down and support, but don’t inspire.

Somehow they think this approach will inspire loyalty and translate to results. They’re in no position to empower, because they have not power to share. Great leaders generate power and then share it.

5 Ways to Regain Leadership Power

Teams are empowered by power. Be sure you have enough to share.
  • Connected – Build great relationships up down and sideways. Your team longs for a leader who’s in the game, and teaches them how to play it.
  • Courageous – Stop complaining about the system, or what can’t be done. If you really think you’re powerless, step down and let someone else be the leader.
  • Creative – Help your team find solutions in the areas they feel most helpless
  • Challenging – Encourage your team to do more than they ever thought possible. Expect a lot.  Keep raising the bar. Forget benchmarks and establish higher standards. Celebrate progress and build desire for what’s possible.
  • Calm – Stay above the fray. Buffer the madness, but also teach them how to sail in a storm.

Yes, this is part of our crowd-sourced e-book series on the Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make, so please share your stories.

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Career & Learning, Communication, Employee Engagement & Energy and tagged , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells - building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Put people in position to win.

    The company, leader, team etc. have goals, initiatives, etc.

    To regain leadership, provide the required resources to get the job done.

    Your team will love you for it. Before you know it, they’ll be dumping a big old jug of ice infused Gatorade over your head.

    • Steve, love it. When I coached a swim team back in college, I knew I was on track when the kids felt compelled to throw me into the pool after our wins 😉

  2. Love this Karin! I especially like “developing relationships up, down, and sideways.” The best way to build not only solid relationships but a solid reputation as well.

  3. Karin,

    I worked in an oppressive organization with a heavy handed division president. We had a director of operations who fully embodied the 5 C’s you mention here. He fully connected everyone, stepped in to make changes, was calm, and an incredible buffer in the company. He truly kept all engaged and inspired to do more. If it were not for him the division would never had the success it had. He got the most out of everyone whereas most other people in his position would have retreated thinking they couldn’t change anything. He was my best mentor whom I still keep up with 15 years later.

  4. I was always frustrated when my boss would say “There’s nothing we can do. I have no choice.” Really? My philosophy is that we always have a choice and there is always a way to figure it out even in less than ideal circumstances. Great advice to middle managers – if you can’t or won’t make things happen step aside so someone else can. With you, Karin!

    • Alli, Thanks for sharing. Yeah, the last thing your team wants to hear is that you’re feeling stuck without choices… after all, isn’t clearing the path a big part of a leaders job? Thanks as always for weighing in.

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