5 Crippling HR Behaviors That Keep Employees From Becoming Leaders

In HR (OD, Training, etc. – pick your title) we like to believe we develop our employees constantly and ongoing to become the next generation of leaders.  But many times our actions tell a very different story.  We (HR and our Leadership teams) do and say things daily that keep people from truly reaching their full potential.  Self awareness of these behaviors is the key to making sure you are the roadblock to creating great leaders in your organization.

Here are 5 things you are doing to stop leadership development in your organization:

1. We try to mitigate 100% of risk.  Leaders need to understand and experience risk.  It’s part of the growth process to becoming a leader.  If we never allow our future leaders to experience risk, they’ll fail when they finally face it, or will be unwilling to face it, thus missing out on huge opportunities for your organization.

2. We don’t allow our employees to fail.  There are two parts to this. First, we get personal gratification by saving the day.  Second, we have this false sense that ‘great’ leaders won’t allow their employees to fail, so we step in quickly when we see things going south.   We tell ourselves that we need to let our people fail, and failure is good, etc. But we can’t stop ourselves from stepping in when failure is about to happen, or is happening.

3. We mistake what is expected with great.  Words are so powerful.  It’s so easy to say “You’re doing Great!”, when in actuality the correct phrase is probably closer to “You’re doing the exact job you’re paid to do!”  That’s not great. That’s is expected.  You can’t blow hot air up everyone’s butt and think they’re going to get great.  They have to know what great is, and then get rewarded with praise when great is reached.

4. We mistake high performance for the ability to lead.  Just because you’re great at ‘the’ job, doesn’t mean you’ll be great at leading people who do ‘the’ job.  This might be the one behavior that is hardest to change.  All of our lives we tell people the way to ‘move up’ is through great performance.  But it isn’t.  The way to move up into leadership, is to do those things that great leaders do – which does include high performance, but it also includes so much more than just being good at ‘the’ job you’re doing.

5. We are not honest about our own failures.  Developing leaders will learn more about leadership from you, if they know and understand your own failures at leadership.  We all have major failures in our lives, and many of those are hard to share because they are embarrassing, they show weakness, they might still be a weakness, etc. Developing leaders will learn more from your failures about being a great leader, then from any of your successes.

Developing future leaders has always been a critical part of HR in organizations, but we are quickly approaching a time in our history where your ability to develop leaders might be the most valuable skill you can provide to your organization.

(adapted from the Forbes article “7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Your Children From Growing Into Leaders

2 thoughts on “5 Crippling HR Behaviors That Keep Employees From Becoming Leaders

  1. Fran –

    Yes – that would be another excellent one! If HR truly wants to help leaders, they need to be able to deliver critical feedback. To ensure that is taken in the right context, you must have a relationship with said leader. That means you need to actually spend time with a leader, while she is leading!


  2. I would add one more; enabling bad leadership habits. HR is in the unique position of being able to deliver tough feedback to leaders, but too often is full of deference or self-interest to do the tough work of telling leaders when they are getting in their own way.

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