5 important leadership characteristics you need to avoid

Leadership skills that separate the good from the great

Great leaders are driven by their unique ideas, styles, and skills. But, even for experienced leaders, certain pitfalls can be the difference between good and great.

Are you a team leader that gives feedback on tasks and requests feedback on their management style? Congrats, that makes you a good leader. But there’s room for improvement, and a few things you can do to become a great leader. Organize regular brainstorming activities that bring you closer to your team to find out exactly what you can improve on. Not just for your sake, but for the good of your team and their productivity.

Do you make regular friendly inquiries into projects and employee workloads? Good! But what’s great is recognizing roadblocks, potential candidates for support, and doing so without micromanaging.

A great leader is defined by what they do, and what they don’t. You can have the qualities of a great leader but still be a nightmare to work with. You can be the friendliest person in the office, but don’t help your employees grow or learn. It takes a combination of actions and behavioral traits, both ideal and realistic. These specifics are where many leaders go wrong.

Leadership traits that can hurt your team

1. Hands-off management

Giving autonomy to team members isn’t a recent management fad, but it’s definitely popular in certain circles. Instead of telling your employees what to do and when to do it, you’re giving them some choice, some leeway, and more importantly for the management philosophy itself, some creative freedom. This all sounds great! But, when put into practice, many employees, and their leaders, find the pitfalls outweigh the benefits.

Being aloof regarding your goals and vocabulary sets your team members up to fail. And if you’re known for your lack of communication, guess what: it’s not getting better. Team members will avoid asking for clarification or else get frustrated and pick fights.

Aside from a business vocabulary, the way you delegate tasks might be one of your main anxiety points as a leader. You’re worried about coming off too strong, but not being strong enough. It has to do with tone, directness, use of examples, and of course the amount of faith you have in your workers.

We’ve all heard of a trainer at a past job that made a new employee cry by just asking them to finish a task. Whether the trainee was overwhelmed or felt they were being yelled at, the trainer definitely had to reflect on their methods.

Whether your tone is unfriendly or your feedback is always negative, it’s important to empathize with the positions of the employees you’re attempting to lead. This can be especially hard if you’ve never worked in these positions yourself. A good way to gauge your effectiveness in communication is to seek feedback and occasionally monitor (not micromanage!) difficult tasks.

2. Employee retention

Keeping your team together is a common goal for successful departments at all levels of business. But, some managers can take it too far. They make the job seem so good, that employees may be wary, even afraid, to leave.

Not only can this make your organization or department stale, but it doesn’t allow your workers to grow into the very management and leadership roles you occupy. Both at your organization, and at others.

A leader is a natural icon of authority. But what you should strive for is a coaching role. Being a boss doesn’t make you a leader. Leadership is an ingrained disposition, a collection of positive traits. A boss is a label of power that says nothing about strength.

It’s often said that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. Employee retention is important, but only if it reflects your workers’ satisfaction.

Hire for the right reasons, and let go for the right reasons. If you’re a manager, you’ve been involved in selecting and onboarding your team. The people you selected from the talent pool are leaders too. They’re driven experts in their fields. This collaboration of leaders can be amazing, so long as a direction is communicated, goals are set, and responsibilities are delegated as need be.

Leaders need to promote growth regardless of how valuable a worker is, both within and outside of the company. It may sound unrealistic, especially with the hectic workplace conveyor pushing deadlines towards you, but coaching and teaching are necessary components of your role to enhance your team’s performance. If a leader is meant to delegate tasks, then they must also effectively communicate tasks, and do what is necessary to efficiently and effectively ensure their completion. Teach your employees new skills instead of overwhelming yourself with the task.

3. Perfectionism

If you do it right the first time, you’re not wasting time, right?

As a team leader, failing means trying again. Startups and small businesses are built on risk – it’s risky business. While a good leader takes on risks, a great leader acknowledges that every move and every plan has the potential to fail. If we fail, we fail together. And that’s why we have a plan b and c. In marketing, we have to expect some things not to work.

Experiment, research, and trust your staff. And yes, you can trust your staff while still seeking updates and insight into projects. That willingness to grow goes both ways.

Great leaders do not threaten jobs, belittle, or abuse their team members when results are underwhelming. Identify the weakness (not a person) and work to correct it with your team. Although accountability is very important, you may check back to point 1. But if the blame isn’t on communication flaws, and an employee’s efforts are really lacking, it’s time for a one-on-one to determine how to progress.

Great leaders can avoid delays and potential errors by having a standard support system.

Remember to take a breath once in a while. Instead of setting unrealistic expectations and becoming nasty when the results are lacking substance, reflect. It’s a leader’s job to communicate goals, follow up on progress in order to catch any snags, identify content blockers and locate support, and finally, to review and provide feedback on major projects.

4. Holding each other accountable

“Do as I say, not as I do.” Have these words come out of your mouth, in response to some attitudes or expectations of your employees? Newly onboarded employees are testing the waters of your company culture. Without a great leader, they’re likely to get comfortable with bad habits very quickly.

Additionally, when it comes to setting standards, pointing fingers can be really, really difficult to avoid. While you’re a leader, you yourself still have certain expectations to hit. After all, if parts of your team are struggling, that reflects on you.

Note that I did not say your employees are making you look bad. Rather, a struggling team reflects on their manager’s leadership qualities.

Instead, encourage teamwork and collaboration. Show your team what kind of communication skills and drive you expect. If you create an open atmosphere for workers to discuss, question, and clarify, the foundation of your team will be sturdy.

5. Setting HUGE targets

Expectations and creativity can be quickly humbled against a gust of reality. CEOs with the big ideas can get frustrated when things take longer or cost more than expected. It’s important for leaders to put themselves into the shoes of their staff. This takes trust and patience.

Leadership falters when there’s too big of a gap between who calls the shots and who actually shoots. A leader will lasso their team and bridge the distance. Hiring a middle person to relay information and requests between upper-management and employees is common (cushioning the blows so to speak). In fact, middle management can even drive a business’ culture.

Although certain priorities are likely to get lost in translation, a breakwall leader with similar experience to team members can help balance the ideal with the real. Teamwork skills are the responsibility of all workers, especially the leader.

There’s no such thing as a bad leader. There are great leaders, good leaders, or there are no leaders at all. A great leader guides and avoids miscommunication, intimidation, put downs, and limitations.

Leaders in the digital space

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