A leader is meant to lead – but sometimes they do something different. Being a leader means that there are certain behaviors that reinforce leadership and others that undermine it. Here are some examples of the latter:
1. You stop seeking opinions
Being a leader doesn’t mean that you are the authority on everything. It also doesn’t mean that you plough your own furrow and that you forget to collaborate with others. When decision-making becomes autocratic and your opinion is the only one that counts, that is when leadership has disappeared from your behavior. You might still feel that you are building consensus, but it is probably just coercing others to line up behind your viewpoint.
2. You stop communicating
Ensuring that everyone who needs to know is “in the know”, is leadership 101. But sometimes leaders are so intent on their own agenda, possibly scoring their own political points, that they forget to include others in the communication circle. Leaving other people compromised through lack of communication is poor leadership.
3. You exploit the weak
Sometimes leaders are secure and strong enough to benefit from push-back, challenge, and arguments. But sometimes leaders like to hide behind teams who will invariably just agree with most things they say. They haven’t cultivated a culture of healthy debate. All they have done is to surround themselves with “Yes-Sayers”.
4. You acquiesce without question
Hierarchies can be intimidating and positional power can carry significant authority. But leaders who stop representing principles and ideas that should thread their way into the discussion, and instead just give way all the time, are people who carry no influence. Those who just do the will of their superiors without intelligent debate, are not leaders.
5. You play games
Leadership at its best is authentic, relevant, and objective. When a leader starts to play games with the people in their team (e.g. playing one off against another), or fulfils their own agenda instead of a measured outcome (e.g. creates spurious activity because they like to see people struggle), then leadership has been replaced with dominant narcissism.
6. You just can’t relate
Leadership includes seeing things from other people’s perspectives, and being emotionally connected with others. When a leader stops caring about others, or simply doesn’t invest any interest in other people, their leadership has ceased to be effective.
7. You protect your position
Being comfortable as a leader sometimes means contributing to mundane tasks along with the rest of the team. Standing to one side because you are the leader, and therefore not feeling obliged, willing, or delighted to get your hands dirty, means that credible leadership is significantly diluted. Good leaders deliver results with their team, through their team, and because of their team, not apart from their team.
Candid feedback is always a gift. That is why a coach can be so invaluable for a leader. As can the development of a culture where people feel empowered and rewarded for being open and honest. Leaders need to be aware of their behaviors, and act to rectify any of the bad habits above.