Ever watched a really good idea crash and burn? Me too.
Here’s some brutal honesty: Entire movements have gone down in flames because of boneheaded approaches to good ideas. This isn’t to say we can’t afford to make mistakes. In fact, the only way to know we’re taking risks is to make mistakes. We can’t afford not to make them. But we also can’t afford to ignore common-sense leadership practices.
In honor of our most fatal leadership mistakes, here are my “from the hip” ways to kill great ideas. (Warning: sarcasm ahead)
1. Form a committee. In this way, you’ll be able to devote more time to empty note taking and less time to solving problems. Also, we’ll be able to prevent a single great leader from running with the idea without feeling the need to check with several people with different opinions before proceeding.
2. Be sure to control it. Before you even start executing a good idea, be sure to write plenty of rules and parameters so that no one feels the freedom to run too fast with it. Freedom is the enemy when we’re trying to kill good ideas.
3. Devote a lot of time to calculating the costs. Be sure that everyone understands just how much failing can cost us so that we inch along, paralyzed by fear.
4. Assume it’s everyone’s responsibility. If we’re able to say, “Our organization should really be doing this,” it takes the pressure off anyone in particular who might actually take ownership. In this way, no one gets blamed for the death of the idea … at least not individually.
5. Assume it’s your responsibility alone. If we get help, we’ll just saddle people with the burden of investing their time into meaningful pursuits rather than having more free time to not develop their skills and talents.
6. Vote on it. This will give everyone a sense of power and let them decide that they’re “against” the idea even if it isn’t something they understand. After all, majorities of people are usually smart, right? Besides, in the end, it’s really about keeping as many people as possible happy.
7. Avoid learning from others who have acted on similar ideas. Never ask people who have succeeded or failed before. It’s better to re-invent the wheel, take full credit (or blame) in the end and brag on how much we’ve been able to do (or not do) all on our own.
8. Keep young people out of it. They’re all too inexperienced and unwise to lead anything. Besides, do the voices of the young really matter? I thought they were meant to be seen and not heard … or valued.
9. Keep old … advanced … experienced people out of it. After all, they’re just all grumpy, afraid of change and set in their old-fashioned ways. Their years of wisdom and experience will just complicate matters.
10. Take a little more time to talk about your intentions for the good idea. As long as you’re intending to do something good, it’s as good as doing it, except that it never gets done. But you will have meant well when it’s all said and not done.
I’m guilty of at least a majority of these at one time or another in my own leadership, so I’m not writing out of arrogance but in confession.