12 Things Even the Best Leaders Can Forget

Leaders have a lot to do, so sometimes they forget things—important, big-picture things.
December 31, 2015

Leaders might seem superhuman at times. They aren’t. They’re mortals, just like anyone else. And with a lot on their plates, caught up in the details of their role, they can forget to do things—big-picture things, like the 12 below. 

Learn from what other great leaders sometimes forget, so you can avoid forgetting the same (important) things on your path to leadership. If you’re a leader now, use this as a checklist to help keep track of all the moving chess pieces in your mind:

1. They forget to anticipate problems. 

When things are going great, it can be easy to forget to think about what problems could arise or what could stop the company’s current success in its future tracks. Leaders must run many potential scenarios in their heads at all times and be attuned to what is going on around them. These “Spidey senses” can help detect any issues that might arise so they can begin to prep for addressing those problems.

2. They forget to make the most of available opportunities. 

Often focused more on the potential risks or barriers that have to be addressed in the market, leaders can overlook and miss out on the opportunities. They could be external in the form of a market win or internal in the form of a superstar performer. By unconsciously ignoring these things, it doesn’t mean they are forgetting to be positive or optimistic—it simply means that leaders have to remember to have their eyes peeled for anything that may be advantageous for the company or that differentiates them from the competition.

3. They forget to evolve the organization. 

A leader may not realize that they are becoming complacent with the current success that the organization is achieving. They will forget that, in order to stay relevant and satisfy a customer base’s often changing needs and desires, they must evolve the organization. If leaders forget about the benefits of an evolutionary mindset, natural selection will take over, and those companies (and competitors) that do adapt to the new environment will be the ones to survive. Leaders need to put the necessary resources into studying the market and external conditions, as well as the internal state of the company, to determine a need for evolution and a plan for how it will happen.

4. They forget to lead change. 

While they may have outlined the changes that need to be made within an organization and determined why they are necessary, leaders might forget to actually take up the cause and motivate everyone else to actually make the changes. A leader cannot expect what is often a scary event to just take place without stepping out into the forefront to guide people through it. These are the leaders who end up wondering why the change never really did what it was supposed to do. Leaders can’t forget to be present and active in the change process—and to keep in mind that trends change, and if their business isn't leading them, it will be obsolete overnight.

5. They forget to groom a replacement. 

It’s hard for leaders to think that someone will replace them one day, but it is critical that they are ready with a candidate. And they must work with them directly to ensure they continue to provide the right culture and operating environment—to ensure the organization continues smoothly, without a traumatic disruption. Succession planning is a must, even if retirement feels is so far away. It’s important for all leaders to start planning now.

6. They forget to create balance. 

Leaders may be so caught up and passionate about the organization and their employees that they neglect themselves. In order to maintain a certain level of energy and enthusiasm, as well as mental clarity, leaders cannot forget to create a healthy and balanced lifestyle between their personal and professional lives. They cannot work all the time and expect to maintain that optimum performance level, so they must remember to get rest, eat well, exercise and enjoy downtime with loved ones. By taking care of themselves, leaders are more than likely to do a better job of taking care of the organization and the staff.

7. They forget to listen to employees. 

Leaders might forget that employees have great ideas and can provide a different perspective that can maybe even solve a long-standing problem. It’s easy to think that because a leader has more experience and knowledge that no one else can tell them anything new or better. However, forgetting that solutions come from everywhere is a detriment to the organization. Also, leaders forget to listen to employees, employees might just conveniently forget to listen to them.

8. They forget to work on weaknesses. 

It’s not surprising that most people don’t want to think about those things that they aren’t very good at, but it is critical that leaders actually remind themselves of these weaknesses. Strengths are easy to remember, but they must be put on the backburner for a while to give weaknesses full attention. Any of these weaknesses could adversely impact employees and the organization, so it is important to keep these top of mind and to continue working on them—so they turn into strengths over time.

9. They forget to continue with professional development. 

In being busy and taking on the responsibility of leading, it is easy to forget that there should still be time for an ongoing learning process and skill enhancement. Reaching the top position in a company is not an excuse to stop professional (and personal) development. A person can still hone their leadership skills and other capabilities as well as learn more about their industry and new technologies. Leaders can’t ever forget that everyone has the potential for improvement.

10. They forget to lead by the heart. 

Leaders might think that emotions should be sealed up in a box—that they may not be taken seriously otherwise. But emotions are vital if a person is going to be doing something that involves a lot of people. It’s OK for leaders to show their emotions and acknowledge that they are human, that they understand how employees feel. This humanizes a company’s leader and actually, when used appropriately, increases the bond between a leader and their staff. It builds a deeper respect.

11. They forget to be brave. 

Risk is part of the leadership process, so leaders need to remember to be brave—but doubt can weasel its way in. Leaders can worry about what could happen and what the team might think if failure is the result. Instead, they must always focus on bravery and taking that leap to show their team that it is OK to take risks and try new things. It’s courageous and it’s what sets an organization apart from its competition.

12. They forget to dream. 

Leaders should continue to dream about what the future of the company could look like, but often they forget because they are caught up in the short-term outlook or are putting out daily fires. The dreams and visions for the organization are what fuel innovation and generate deeper value. Leaders who can imagine what the company might be like provide inspiration and excitement in their team to also dream and create ideas for improving the workplace or adding more value to a new or existing product.

Leaders have a lot to remember—and just as much that can be forgotten. Work on remembering and using as many of these things you possibly can, because the ability to be creative, collaborative, brave, open and balanced, among other things, can truly take your leadership ability to the next level, as well as propel your organization toward new opportunities.

What kind of leader are you? Bold, or content with the status quo? Learn to be rigorously reckless with the 5 rules of disruptive leadership.

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