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5 Traits Of The Worst Leaders And How To Avoid Them

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Sunday, May 1st, 2016
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Carelessness, name-calling, perfectionism: there are about as many terrible leadership traits as there are bad leaders themselves. In case your lunch group isn’t already bemoaning just how common less-than-stellar leaders are, we’ll be the first to break the news: there are a lot of bad leaders around.

So many, in fact, that research shows 60% of people trust a stranger more than their boss. If that’s not sobering enough, in the midst of the worldwide talent crisis, the number one reason employees cite for leaving a job is to get away from their boss. And, poor leadership is actively wreaking havoc on teams and organizations. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the common trends of the worst leaders, and tips on how to reverse them.

1. Lack Of Flexibility

Good leadership takes a lot of mental and emotional gymnastics. And just as Olympic gymnasts rarely struggle with a basic back bend, the best leaders don’t hesitate to change direction, implement Plan B, or adjust pace when an initiative doesn’t go as planned. Lack of flexibility can take many forms: anything from a “my way or the highway” attitude to rigid adherence to timelines, to stubborn rejection of new ideas or processes. Any of these habits make it hard for a team to connect and cooperate. And when a leader is unwilling to compromise, it’s much harder to get things done.

Tip: Do some soul-searching or ask a close friend or peer how you could be more flexible at work. Then, set a concrete goal to strive for, like “I will be prepared with a backup plan in case the inevitable happens with our next big project.”

2. Disconnected From The Team

When the cat’s away, the mice will play—or so the saying goes. But an absentee manager won’t make for a happy team. Instead, employees whose bosses are too busy to check in, miss one-on-ones, or have an unspoken closed-door policy are often disappointed and frustrated. Not only does disconnecting from the team communicate that a leader couldn’t care less about goals, initiatives, and the individuals working hard every day, but it also kills the invaluable opportunity to understand teammates on a personal level.

 Tip: You might not know that you’re becoming disconnected, but if you’ve been missing meetings or traveling a lot lately, make it a priority to reconnect. The personal attention will pay dividends in satisfaction and teamwork.

3. Micromanaging

It’s clearly poor leadership to be disconnected from the team, but strangling all autonomy is equally as bad. Micromanaging nearly always shows up on bad leadership habits lists for good reason. Excessive management strains team bonds, discourages innovation, and negatively affects work output. It also communicates that the boss doesn’t believe his team has what it takes to get the job done.

Tip: Get better at delegating. Every individual is part of your team for a reason. By utilizing their unique talents and trusting them to bring their all, you’ll be empowering their great work instead of communicating a lack of trust.

4. Taking All The Credit And Doling Out The Blame

Here’s something that drives people mad: when their manager takes a great idea and claims it as their own. The other side of the coin also stings: when a deadline passes unheeded or a project struggles to get off the ground, and the manager starts pointing fingers as to who’s to blame. Either way, the manager is not taking responsibility for his own actions and their consequences. And this strongly discourages the team from innovating, taking risks, or continuously improving.

Tip: Don’t take credit for someone’s creativity or results. Instead, recognize them to emphasize the great work they’ve done and its importance. And when the going gets rough, take one for the team. You’re there to lead, not to cower—and your behavior when the going gets rough sets the tone for interactions and motivations ahead.

5. Inconsistency

Surprised to see this quality rounding out the list? Recent research has pinpointed inconsistency—not playing favorites, or leading with fear, or name-calling (though those are all to be avoided as well)—as the worst trait of bad leaders. Inconsistency, like when a leader is fair to one group on his team, but singles out others, or reacts unpredictably, or is extremely prone to mood swings, puts everyone on edge. Not knowing what to expect whenever the boss is around drains the energy, patience, and creativity from a team. As a leader, you set the tone. Make sure your team knows where you stand.


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