10 symptoms of lousy leadership

Bad leaders don’t truly ‘love’ their people. They also tend to disregard company culture, ignore gender bias and fail to ask for feedback.


Being an effective leader is hard work.

However, there are many ways we make it harder than it should be. Here are 10 signs you’re on the path to poor leadership:

1. You don’t love your people.

I recently asked a manager I deeply respect for his secret to great leadership. His answer surprised me: “All I do is love my people.”

In this context, “love” means: “to contribute to someone’s long-term success and well-being.”

Is this sort of “love” still important and relevant to younger workers today? Of course it is. Employees, regardless of age or background, appreciate leaders who play an active role in their long-term success and well-being. That never changes.

2. You have time-consuming hobbies.

Taking five hours off on a workday to hit the links doesn’t send an ideal message to your team. I’m not saying you can’t have hobbies, or that you shouldn’t play golf, but your people watch everything you do. Don’t let your hobbies become a source of contempt or bitterness.

3. You don’t think culture matters that much.

Creating a positive, healthy culture is crucial for employee engagement and productivity. Everyone on the team plays a part in the ongoing development of a company culture, but it’s the leader’s responsibility to create and own it.

Former NFL player Mike Rucker said: “It’s the culture a leader sets that dictates the path.”

Toxic cultures create bad habits, which eventually lead to bad results. Great cultures, however, create good habits, and good habits lead to positive results.

4. You treat men and women differently in the workplace.

Research shows that 22 percent of executive leadership positions in the U.S. are held by women, which is below the world average. Gender bias is a business issue—not a women’s issue.

Whether you are a man or a woman, allowing any preconceived beliefs or stereotypes to get in the way of holding people accountable is a huge problem. Allowing gender bias to continue unabated can ruin a company’s culture.

5. You define yourself by how much you made last year.

The great Benjamin Franklin said:

Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.

Your people won’t follow you because you made a lot of money. They will follow you because you make their life better and more fulfilled.

6. You don’t start your day with, ‘What moves the needle?’

Mac Lackey, a successful entrepreneur, says that the secret to successful days lies in a notecard emblazoned with “WMN,” which stands for “what moves the needle?”

If you don’t know what you can do each day to move the needle for your team, you will get sucked into the vortex of email, micromanagement and putting out fires when you really aren’t needed.

7. You aren’t measuring short-term wins.

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is not measuring short-term wins to ensure the team is on the path toward substantive success.

Think of it like the slalom in Alpine skiing. From the top of the hill, you can see the finish line, but to get there you have to maneuver through a series of flags. The short-term wins that you should be measuring are the flags. Celebrate victories and achievements, no matter how small.

8. You never ask your people for feedback.

Our research has shown the No. 1 thing leaders do poorly is asking their people for feedback. Too many leaders assume they are doing a good job. Show some vulnerability and humility (and wisdom), and simply ask your employees’ opinion about how you can improve.

9. You don’t have a mentor.

Going into work without a mentor is like going into a gunfight with a knife. The best mentor/mentee relationships happen organically, but actively seeking advice and guidance from people who have come before you is never a bad idea.

10. Your company doesn’t invest in leadership development.

Organizations that invest in leadership development can expect higher performance and better overall results. Research shows that companies investing in leadership training enjoy 24 percent higher profit margin per employee and a 218 percent higher revenue per employee than organizations that don’t invest in their people.

If you are guilty of some of these signs, don’t take it personally. Remember, leadership is a journey, not a destination. Consider the Latin saying “nunc coepi,” which means “now I begin.”

John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft. A version of this post first appeared on LinkedIn.

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