Poor leadership comes with serious ramifications for a business. The slumps in morale that result from poor leadership can curb productivity and ultimately increase turnover, which wastes time and resources. Furthermore, poor leadership can create a reputation in the business world that makes it difficult to recruit talented employees.
While it’s important to understand which traits mark excellent leadership, it’s also important for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other business leaders to recognize the most destructive actions and characteristics they can have. That way, if they notice these traits in themselves or other leaders at their company, they can identify the issue and work to correct it. Some of the worst traits that business leaders can exhibit are:
A recent Harvard Business Review study found that absenteeism is one of the most toxic traits that poor leaders can have. Absentee leaders are not physically present in the office, or they fail to interact with the employees they’re supposed to manage. What makes this form of leadership so problematic is that the leader continues to reap the rewards and respect of the position without actually taking on the responsibilities. Absenteeism leads to dissatisfaction among employees, who need feedback from their leaders to know what they are doing well and how they can improve—and on a more basic level, to know that their work actually matters. Furthermore, employees with this type of manager frequently lack knowledge of what they can do to advance in the organization, so they may simply stop trying altogether.
The opposite of an absentee leader is the micromanager. These people do not understand how to delegate responsibility and may check in with their employees incessantly, which gives the message that they do not trust them to get things done on their own. Micromanagers typically come across as overly critical and destroy employee confidence. As a result, employees can lose motivation and perhaps even become resentful—and a resentful employee can do considerable harm to a company. In addition, employees who are micromanaged tend to become less creative. Why should they think about new ways to solve a problem or improve a product, when their manager dictates their every move? In contrast, leaders who give their employees some autonomy also give them the confidence to be creative. Some leaders take back the reins the second a problem develops, but they violate trust when they do so—this is another form of micromanagement, even though it may not look like it at first.
Focusing on blame
One of the worst mistakes that a leader can make is failing to support their team. In all situations, employees should feel like their leaders have their back. Everyone makes mistakes, including leaders. When managers do not recognize this, they may start to blame their employees when things go wrong, even when it’s not their fault. In the end, assigning blame never helps anything. Great leaders focus on finding solutions; they don’t waste time brooding on “whose fault was it?” They create an atmosphere where failure is OK, so long as it teaches lessons. Leaders who nitpick and look for mistakes to make themselves look better undermine trust and may cause employees to become too afraid to think outside the box.
A one-size-fits-all approach to leadership rarely works. Each employee has a unique communication style and personality. The best leaders understand how to read their employees and alter their personal style to build a better connection. When leaders are inflexible, they may fail to communicate effectively with their employees, which can result in demotivation. A problem that poor leaders often face is thinking that everyone should think and act like them, which means they often fail to examine their own behavior if they have problems in their relationships with employees. In reality, leaders have the responsibility to adapt their communication style to successfully connect with employees. It’s not necessary to read minds to do this, thankfully. Simply asking employees what they want in terms of feedback can help redefine the relationship.
Leaders should have a clear idea of their team’s goals and how they can guide their team members to achieve them. An unfocused leader may start projects that never get finished and continually ask employees to do different things. With this sort of guidance, employees may feel like nothing is getting accomplished and that they are wasting their time. When employees feel unfulfilled at work, their productivity often droops. Furthermore, a lack of focus can cause major issues at the company level, especially if clients’ expectations are not being met. Leaders should not feel the need to change strategies or priorities on a daily or even weekly basis. If this is happening, leaders need to figure out how they can become more strategic about identifying and reaching long-term goals.
When leaders do not have self-awareness, they may quickly lose the respect of their employees and colleagues. All actions have repercussions in the business world, and leaders who do not recognize this can cause instability. When employees notice that their leaders are not paying attention to how their decisions impact the company, they may begin looking for a new position. Without self-awareness, leaders may continue to act in ways that harm their company’s reputation and its bottom line. Furthermore, leaders need to recognize that their behaviors contribute significantly to corporate culture. If they never reflect on their own actions and the tone they set, the effect can be toxic. Self-aware leaders recognize their problem behaviors and have the humility to seek help and enact plans to change them.