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10 Horrible Leadership Habits You Need to Get Rid Of

Here’s one: Get rid of your inability to actively listen.

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BY Marcel Schwantes - 01 Mar 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The horrible leadership behaviors I'm about to expound on are not mere platitudes or hackneyed clichés.

They remain, unfortunately, characteristics of well-meaning people on high perches, rather than growing into traits that meet the needs of others, the practice of the finest leaders on the planet.

In the list below, you'll note the first item is unique from the other nine. In a cultural or systemic context, it certainly is "horrible" and needs to stop. The rest point to an assortment of individual and team-leadership frightfulness that should make your hair stand up.

Without further ado, I unleash leadership (or lack thereof) truth.

 

The Horrible 10

1. Get rid of the old boys' club

The glass ceiling has a hole in it that keeps getting bigger, but despite these gains women remain underrepresented at all levels of leadership.

In January, Catalyst reported that only 5.4 percent of the companies in Standard and Poor's 500 index had female chief executive officers.

While stereotypes and bias remain among the leading obstacles for women seeking leadership roles, truth is, companies are leaving money on the table by not advancing women to leadership roles.

Case in point: Development Dimensions International's "Global Leadership Forecast 2014 | 2015--Ready Now Leaders" report found that organizations with better financial performance have more women in leadership roles.

The report states that organizations in the top 20 percent of financial performance counted 37 percent of their leaders as women; among organizations in the bottom 20 percent, only 19 percent of leaders were women.

Increasing gender diversity in leadership teams means "greater diversity of thought, which, in turn, leads to improved problem solving and greater business benefits," the report states.

2. Get rid of your penchant for micromanaging

"Oh, I just love how my boss dominates all our decisions, looks over our shoulders, and pushes us around," said no employee ever.

In 2016, I conducted an independent workplace survey on LinkedIn and received hundreds of responses to the question: "What is the one mistake leaders make more frequently than others?"

Micromanagement was the No. 1 mistake employees across the globe felt their managers make. Really, no surprise here. Leaders who dominate people, decisions, and processes will ultimately derail a team's morale.

Micromanagers operate their way out of sense of power, and power is about control; don't let them fool you by having you believe it's to keep from things going south, or because they want to ensure things are done "the right way."

3. Get rid of the tendency to lead through fear

If you want to foster trust, hop off the autocratic high-horse and stop instilling fear in the hearts and minds of people.

This means allowing freedom for others to experiment, lead themselves, stretch, and make mistakes. This will unleash discretionary effort and your team will produce great results.

When leadership is less about control and more about encouraging autonomy and collective wisdom, things happen. Let me rephrase that: Financial growth happens!

In WorldBlu's fascinating "Freedom at Work Report: Growth and Resilience," organizations that promote freedom-centered leadership saw an average cumulative revenue growth rate over a three-year period that was 6.7 times greater than that of the S&P 500 companies. What company doesn't want this?

4. Get rid of how quickly you squash innovation

Leaders who say they want an innovative team or culture and then turn around and kill any new idea brought forth are subconsciously sabotaging the creative process through a top-down approach.

Instead, they need a bottom-up "pull" approach, supporting and nurturing innovation from "idea people" who want to contribute and make a difference.

5. Get rid of your inability to actively listen

The lack of active and respectful listening and two-way communication (sending without receiving) is a clear shortcoming for many leaders. What I want to focus on here is the willingness to listen to constructive feedback--especially the kind you don't want to hear.

Many leaders don't want to listen to the ideas, opinions, and constructive feedback of others. They operate in an ego-system, not an ecosystem. Unfortunately, if you've ever worked with this type of leader, it can be exhausting.

6. Get rid of how you ignore the development of your people

You want to disengage employees as fast as a joy ride on the Autobahn? Treat them as if they are plain worker bees with dead-end career paths.

Great leaders will invest in top employees long term, with learning, development, and mentoring opportunities. They create an environment that motivates people and keep their performance at a high level by doing things like:

• Making it safe for them to take risks and to make mistakes. There is immense learning that comes from failure.

• Encouraging and affirming them by asking about their development, and whether they're getting enough opportunities to learn and grow.

• Identifying each person's unique skills and strengths, and using them where they are best suited for business outcomes.

• Giving employees a front-row seat in experiencing the process of how their work, task, or role aligns with the larger goals of the organization.

7. Get rid of your lack of self-awareness

Self-awareness is one of the most important capabilities for leaders to develop. And it is a learned trait.

A self-aware leader is optimistic and resilient. He or she bounces back from failure and keeps morale high for the team during the storm.

Instead of self-defeating behaviors of "Why me" or "Why us," self-aware leaders probe and ask themselves questions like:

• Why do the same issues keep coming up over and over?

• What needs to change?

• What's triggering me to respond to situations (or my team members) with negative emotions?

• What makes me think, act, and feel the way I do? What makes me tick? What pushes my buttons?

Having a complete self-understanding gives you an edge. You can manage yourself and your emotions, identify opportunities for development, and make the most of your strengths.

8. Get rid of your ineptness with influencing those around you

We've all heard the John Maxwell saying "leadership is influence." The fastest way to have it is to get other people to respond emphatically to your leadership. When you do, you're influencing.

I submit the following as your road map for influential leadership:

  • Gain the trust of others by giving it as a gift even before it's earned.
  • Let go of your ego. Release control. Share power.
  • Show competence. Competence builds confidence in your people. And their confidence in you will ultimately deliver excellence.
  • Inspire others to find their voice. When you cast a vision, enroll your followers to express their voice as co-creators and co-contributors to the vision.
  • Develop a culture in which employees are given ownership over decisions.

9. Get rid of your habit of hogging the spotlight

I wrote an article about how Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, transformed her business through the principles of servant leadership.

She says too many leaders hunger for the spotlight, want to stay in the spotlight, and forget to shine the spotlight on others.

In her strategy sessions with her leadership team when she came on board in 2007, she asked, "What if we turned the spotlight to the people we serve instead of keeping it to ourselves. What would that look like?"

Well, they did. And the results were incredible.

10. Get rid of your invisible-leader act

The invisible boss is the one that's often missing in action when he's needed the most. Most of the time you'll find him hibernating in his office with the door shut, having "important" conversations with his closest allies--other leaders who are also MIA.

Such leaders avoid personal interaction, especially when things are going south. They will manage by email and text, and avoid communicating in person for fear of facing conflict (which, if they knew better and faced with courage, would be avoided altogether).

This leader is only interested in good news, because he's not able to handle anything more. Got a problem? Talk to someone else.

Your turn: What would you add to the list? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know.