Bad leadership comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s because leaders just don’t care. Other times it isn’t intentional, but it happens because of a leader’s mindset.
Short term thinking is something that causes bad leadership, because it leads to poor decisions or lack of action. Unfortunately, I find short term thinking to be relatively common in most workplaces.
Personally, I find that deciding on a course of action often becomes a lot easier when you look forward and start thinking about the longer term.
Short Term Thinking Means Bad Leadership, Because It Causes Long Term Problems
Short term thinking simply means considering only what is in front of you.
Instead of considering the possible impacts of a course of action over the long term, we think about what might happen today, tomorrow or next week.
Sometimes we get away with this, and we simply need to act to fix a problem or take an opportunity now. The real issue occurs when the consequences of our actions (or inaction) lie hidden, and only emerge over the longer term.
Let’s look at some examples.
Short Term Thinking Is Failing to Address Poor Performance
This one seems obvious. Of course you need to address poor performance.
But then, why is it that we see so many examples of poor performance going unpunished in our workplaces?
Almost everywhere I have worked in my career, there have been examples of poor behaviour and poor performance that have been left unresolved.
I get it – it’s hard, especially with the mess we can get into regarding Human Resources policies and performance management processes. Sometimes, it feels like it’s not worth the trouble.
But I would ask you to look at the alternative. When not addressed, behaviour and performance issues eat into your leadership like termites.
Oh, you might not see the obvious signs now, but eventually you will notice.
Eventually your credibility and reputation are tarnished, because you’re the person people are looking towards to do something about the problem. When your credibility suffers, so does your ability to influence and make positive change.
Then, your team members lose motivation, when they realise that you aren’t going to do anything about the problem. When they know there are no consequences for poor performance, they wonder why they even bother trying to do their best at all.
Remember, some problems start out small, and get bigger over time. Failing to address the bad behaviour today means it’s more uncomfortable trying to fix it later.
It starts out small, and then just becomes an example of bad leadership.
Short Term Thinking Is Failing to Push Back On Unreasonable Demands Or Workloads
Our next example happens when we fail to say “No” to people.
Sometimes we say “Yes” to unreasonable deadlines, work that isn’t ours to take on, or workloads that are too much to bear.
The problem with this approach is that you’ll start to become overwhelmed with work that can’t reasonably be done. Or if it can be done, you run the risk of burning out both yourself and your team.
If you start to accept work that comes with unreasonable deadlines, or work that shouldn’t even be yours to do, you are setting a precedent for future behaviour.
Eventually, you’ll be considered the “easy target” for people to offload work onto.
Others won’t take responsibility to communicate with you early or in a reasonable manner, because they know you’ll just take the hit and work hard to get the work done.
Once again, if you think towards the longer term, you’ll notice the fairly obvious problems. Not pushing back now, means more chance of burnout and a lack of respect for your boundaries.
Sometimes you just need to stand up for yourself. Because if you don’t say anything, everyone thinks you’re fine. Why would they change their behaviour?
It’s the Precedent You Set Which Leads to Bad Outcomes
Many of the problems with these two examples of bad leadership are due to the precedent that we set as leaders.
When we fail to address poor behaviour or performance, we set the precedent that bad behaviour and performance are OK.
When we take on work that is unreasonable, or simply too much to handle, we set the precedent that we’ll do anything to get work done, even if it means burning out our team.
It’s the precedent we set that kills us. Because it’s hard to change people’s minds when they’ve seen how you responded the first time.
To Avoid Bad Leadership, Shut Down the Short Term Thinking
To help you avoid the short term thinking trap, think about the following aspects:
- Is there a reputation or credibility impact for you, by taking (or not taking) a course of action?
- Will there be a potential impact on the longer-term wellbeing of your team?
- By taking an action, or failing to act, are you setting a precedent for future behaviour which is going to be hard to reverse?
Do you agree or disagree? What else do you think leads to bad leadership, even when people have the best of intentions? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.