TOP TEN Worst Leadership Behaviors

bad_leadershipFor 40 years I have devoted my career to teaching, writing and coaching on entrepreneurial business growth and leadership. I included the term “entrepreneurial” because I am also a life-long entrepreneur. I just love all aspects of what makes a small business great. I especially love the passion that drives individuals to turn a vision into a functioning, dynamic and profitable enterprise.

On the flip side of all the stuff I love, is all the stuff that turns visions into nightmares, profit into losses, and passion into toxic waste. When a business drifts into dysfunctional behavior, it rarely has anything to do with the economy or stiff competition … it has everything to do with leadership behaviors that “destroy from within.”

What follows is my list of the TOP TEN worst leadership behaviors. If you see even a spec of your leadership behavior in one or more of them, heed the warning and commit to embracing and living the tenets of No-Compromise Leadership.

And the TOP TEN worst leadership behaviors are:

  1. Vision loss: Vision is not only what gets you into business … it is what pushes a business and it’s people forward into the unknown. Vision is as much about the journey as it is the destination. Leaders are human and, at times, the relentless chase for their vision can wear them down … often without them recognizing it. When leaders lose sight of their vision, the business becomes “just a business” that’s all about work, numbers and money. A leader without a vision is no longer a leader. The leader devolves into a “manager” or “supervisor” making sure the work gets done, but no longer acting as a leader. Without vision there is no passion.
  2. Telling it like it isn’t: Facts don’t lie. Truth is a foundation you can build a world-class company on. Candy coatings are sugary and sweet, but have no nutritional value to sustain life. Leaving important things unsaid, withholding and/or filtering information destroys transparency and wrecks company cultures. When leaders tell it like it isn’t, they are intentionally distorting truth and breaking trust. Transparency is about openness, sharing, engagement and honesty. Always tell it like it is … even when it is difficult to do so.
  3. Uncommitted commitments: The most difficult aspect of coaching business and leadership is getting those being coached to do the work to achieve the desired outcomes. All leaders are a work in progress. The key word is progress. A company can only move and grow at the speed of its leader. Therefore, a leader must evolve and grow as his or her company grows. This means making a no-compromise commitment to address behaviors like procrastination, avoidance, micromanaging, not showing up, poor financial discipline, indecision, self-centeredness, and other such behaviors. Change always begins with the leader.
  4. Promise Margarine: Don’t promise butter and deliver margarine. Broken promises break trust. Even promises made with the best and most sincere intentions will break trust when broken. When leaders have a pattern of breaking promises, employees stop believing. And when employees stop believing … they stop following the leader. Too often, the “I don’t care” indifference that infects a company culture has its roots in broken promises made by the leader. A promise is a contract to deliver. A pattern of broken promises is a behavior issue.
  5. Head in the sand: Avoiding a problem today gives you a bigger problem to deal with tomorrow. Problems never fix themselves. When leaders avoid anything that has been identified as a problem … it is called compromise. Maybe the problem is a spending issue and increasing debt. Maybe the problem is a toxic employee. Maybe the problem is the double standard that the leader helped to create. Maybe it’s a performance or productivity issue. What ever the problem is … it is only going to get worse unless the leader engages and takes corrective action.
  6. Pulling rank over file: I cringe every time I hear an owner say, “It’s MY company and …” Of course it’s your company. Everyone knows it. But being an owner or having an impressive title doesn’t make someone an effective leader. Any leader that plays the “It’s MY company and …” card is actively practicing “destroy from within” behavior. Clarifying expectations, open communication, information flow, systems, and defining what accountability means in your company may require more time, planning and energy … but it is the work of leadership. The “It’s MY company and …” is a behavior caused by avoiding the work and disciplines of leadership.
  7. Half-baking everything: When employees say, “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work,” it is a symptom that the leader has a track record of not getting projects and change initiatives across the finish line. Half-baking everything behavior occurs when leaders keep churning out new high-priority projects before last month’s, or last week’s, high-priority projects are implemented. Half-baking everything also includes a leadership pattern of hitting the launch button on projects or change initiatives that are poorly planned and/or launched before everyone knows what’s going on. Half-baking everything is dysfunctional leadership.
  8. And the decision is … : Making tough decisions is the work of leadership. Avoiding a tough decision feeds stress and uncertainty throughout a company … especially in small businesses. The toughest decisions are the ones that require the biggest change and/or some level of sacrifice. Tough decisions can also be unpopular and encounter employee resistance. That’s why they are called tough decisions. When leaders hesitate on tough decisions, they place their companies’ progress on hold. Do your research. Seek guidance from mentors and others that can offer objective and unbiased solutions. Then, make the tough decision and lead your company through it to a better place.
  9. That feeling in your gut is gas: Entrepreneurs are notorious for going with their gut. True, there are some entrepreneurs blessed with good business instincts … but charging off into the unknown without doing the research and planning is like flying from New York to Paris without a flight plan, a map/GPS … or knowing you have enough fuel. Simply put, I’ve met and worked with enough smart entrepreneurs that wish they never listened to their gut. Luck is not a business strategy.
  10. Wanting it ten times less: I always coach leaders and owners that they must want success ten times more than those they lead. That’s what feeds the passion, urgency and tenacity that drive a company through good and tough times … and to that elusive next level all leaders envision. When a leader wants success less then those he or she leads, it’s time to step aside.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click below to comment.

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They will appreciate it.


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