The 20 Most Common Bad Leadership Habits

Last month I attended a workshop with a business psychologist, Dr Lou Stern, who is one of the USA’s leading executive coaches. He presented a fascinating list of the most common habits of ineffective leaders, based on a review of 300 high level leaders he has coached.

I have listed the first 10 below so you can start to think about which one’s relate most to you. If you aren’t sure, why not give the list to some people who report to you! By the way, these are all habits that can be changed with insight, determination and repetition of the opposite.

  1. Being intimidating and disrespectful. In other words being a bully. While this is often not the intention, other’s don’t know this and it can shut them down from sharing their ideas in the future. 
  2. Being impatient. This is often linked to thinking you know everything. Even if you are all knowing and perfect there are still benefits in listening to the views of others so they feel valued.
  3. Being long-winded and verbose. This includes repeating yourself and not getting to the point. Maybe you like to have others wait with baited breath to hear your words of wisdom?
  4. Being indecisive. Vacillating, procrastinating, holding off making decisions because you want more and more information. Do you really need that extra spreadsheet of “what ifs”?
  5. Avoiding conflict. Not speaking up when you know you should so you can keep the peace. The problem is this never addresses the cause of the conflict, so it’s probably going to repeat itself.
  6. Being non-strategic. Strategy is about the “why” and the “what” — being in the helicopter navigating the way forward. You can’t do this if you are bogged down in the tactical stuff — the “how”.
  7. Being risk-averse or reckless. These two extremes can both lead to problems. Risk is fine as long as it is taken thoughtfully with a plan B if things go pear shaped. Risk averse can strangle opportunity and competitive advantage.
  8. Being slow or non-responsive. This can be due to thinking deeply but not telling others that is what you are doing. Often all that is needed to break this habit is to tell others what is going on in your head.
  9. Being independent and non-collaborative. Some people don’t like playing in the sandbox with others, which means everyone misses out on the benefits that come from the natural building of an idea into something better.
  10. Being inexpressive. Remember most people can’t read minds. So if you don’t speak up, it can interpreted that you are hiding information, which in turn undermines trust.

How did you go? Any of these ring a bell. I certainly scored a few. In my next tip I’ll cover Dr Stern’s next 10 bad leadership habits.

By the way I want to thank the 200 franchisor executives who recently participated in the launch of our Franchise Excellence Research Findings. The 14 chapter Franchise Excellence Research Report is now available from our online shop. You will find this a fantastic tool that can be used for improving your franchisee recruitment, mentoring and support strategies as well as equipping your leadership team with cutting edge information and analysis. Significant discounts are available for multiple purchases.

Until next time,

Greg Nathan

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