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The 4 Worst Pieces of Leadership Advice, and What to Follow Instead

Fake it ’till you make it? That might sound good when you’re trying to grow your business, but it’s not the best piece of advice to follow long-term. Here are more nuggets of not-so-wisdom.

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BY Gene Hammett - 05 Apr 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I lost millions on a deal and it put me in bankruptcy. The odd part of this is that I thought I was being smart by seeking advice from others -- and trying to follow most of it, good or bad. I have always felt like growth-minded leaders can put their egos aside and seek insight from those they admire.

But not all of the advice you hear will guide you to grow. Some can even be detrimental to you. I have always valued an outside perspective to my journey as a leader and entrepreneur. In my decades of experience, I have engaged mentors, friends, coaches, and consultants to perceive new areas for growth.

Be Bold to Achieve Big Goals

I will go first and share the worst advice I have received from a mentor. Ten years ago, I faced a big decision in my business that had me stuck. It was a multi-million dollar deal that had a degree of risk -- and reward if it all worked out. I reached out to a mentor to help me think through the deal. Very quickly my mentor told me, "I should be bold and go for it." I trusted this advice as it made sense to me -- normally I was very cautious. However, that "be bold" advice ended up costing me dearly. I lost more than $3 million causing my bankruptcy by being bold and not seeing other perspectives.

Being bold often is the right thing to do. However, I wish I would have examined the down-side of the opportunity more closely I really could have used more caution here. The right thing would be to find a way to minimize the inherent risks with the deal. Hindsight is always 20-20, but not all advice from trusted people is good for you.

Hire Mediocre Employees to Save Money

Your initial hires are critical to the success of the company. A bad hire can cost you dearly. I have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years by hiring mediocre employees. I believe hiring based on your budget is a dangerous approach. I'm not alone here.

Ahmed Mady is the CEO of Fab Glass and Mirror, which has had a three-year growth rate of 3,013 percent. The company takes an innovative approach to customer service -- and that only comes from hiring and retaining great employees.

Mady shared with me, "When we hired people based solely on our budget, we ended up paying more to fix their mistakes. We started hiring talented people which cost us more money in the short term; however, they kept bringing ideas to make us more money and saved money for us too."

When I have clearly defined the kind of company I am creating, it was easier to see the type of employees I needed to support me.

Hire Your Family and Friends, So You Don't Have to Vet Them

I have hired family and friends before, because I trusted them. Yet these people rarely were able to handle the job requirements to impact the business. Think really hard about hiring those close to you just because you know them well.

Mike Wagner, the CEO of TFM Truckload, has lead the company to a three-year growth of 5,121 percent. Wagner said an advisor to told him to "hire your friends, that way you won't have to vet the candidates. They're already your friends."

"Hiring his friends was only a good idea after he vetted them as possible employees," Wagner said. "Definitely hire the ones qualified and enthusiastic about the work, but don't just hire them because they're your friends." TFM Truckload has built its company with employees with a keen understanding of logistics, customer service, and mathematics -- not just friends.

Evolved leaders understand the value beyond hiring those who think like them to be relevant in tough times. This means not just skin color or gender but diversity in thinking that allows new perspectives to be visible.

Fake It 'till You Make It

We have all heard the phrase "fake it 'till you make it." I do believe this works in some situations, but it can also be terrible advice too. My experience in leadership has taught me that you should be very careful before you fake to your team. At the surface level, it may sound good to be the leader who knows the solution. However, an evolved leader knows this is not the case.

Justin Cooke is the founder of Empire Flippers who has grown 2,441 percent over the last three years. Cooke said that "faking it as a leader causes a lot of false overconfidence and rash decisions."

One of the most powerful concepts in business and in life is being able to confidently say that you don't know the answer. So, quit faking it!

It's great to seek advice -- but don't accept it blindly without your own plan based on your own instincts in place.

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