By Deep Patel
Mistakes are a part of life. However, when a mistake becomes a habit, it can have disastrous consequences. This is especially true for those in leadership positions.
Whether we are aware of them or not, most of us have habits that limit our ability to be great leaders. These destructive mental traps hold us back. They make us ineffective. They kill the productivity and creativeness of those around us. Being aware of these dangerous leadership traps is the first step toward avoiding or correcting them.
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Whether you are just starting out in a leadership role or have been in a position of management for years, here are 15 destructive habits you need to cut out now.
1. Not Making Time For Reflection
During the crush of a busy day, it may feel impossible to make time to reflect on your goals—to consider how you should define your vision and how you want to communicate with others. So much of a busy leader’s day is spent putting out fires and keeping things rolling along. But it’s important to make time to methodically revisit how your day went. Did you accomplish your goals for the day? How did you interact with others?
Taking a few minutes in the evening to check in with yourself, consider how the day went and decide what changes you want to make tomorrow can help you stay on course, both personally and professionally.
2. Lacking Initiative
We all know leaders who fail to check their facts before making a decision. They are careless, hasty and negligent. These are the hallmarks of a lazy manager who does the minimum needed to get by.
The end result is sloppy work—on the leaders’ part because they don’t put in the time to do the job correctly, and on the part of their workers, because if the boss doesn’t care, then why should they? So if you are just counting the hours until you go home, it’s time for a major wake-up call. If you want others to put themselves out there and do good work, you have to be willing to model the same.
If all you do is zero in on details and nitpick your team’s work, don’t be surprised when morale drops off a cliff, your people flee to find new jobs and productivity plummets. A micromanager can crush a team’s creativity and ingenuity. An overly controlling leader establishes a tone of mistrust and limits others’ ability to grow.
Instead, make sure to prioritize what matters. Good leaders know how to delegate and give those under them room to accomplish tasks in their own unique way. Be upfront with your team about what really matters to you, about what your goals are and what your vision is. And then step back and give them space to flourish on their own.
4. Not Listening
You may think you are making the best use of time by responding to emails while you’re sitting in a meeting, but what you are really doing is engaging in a form of passive-aggressive disrespect for your colleagues.
When someone else is talking, it’s important to practice active listening. This means fully concentrating on what is being said. It means being engaged, paying attention and giving feedback, such as maintaining eye contact and nodding to show that you are following what they are saying.
5. Ignoring Feedback
As a leader, you have to be confident in your decisions and willing to take a stand and act on your instincts. But you also need to be open-minded enough to hear the opinions of others and be receptive to their ideas. By dismissing opposing views, you may be ignoring important feedback that will help you make good decisions in the future.
That doesn’t mean you blindly accept what others are saying; it means you are open-minded enough to try to see things from their point of view, and then consider how that information might be valuable to you.
6. Not Following Through
Leaders build rapport with those around them in much the same way as you would build a strong relationship with a friend. You have to build a foundation of trust. You have to show that you care. And the first step is to follow through with what you say you will do. It’s that simple. If you come off as unreliable, people will quickly learn to discount you. It’s hard to respect someone who seems fickle or too busy to make good on their promises.
So think carefully before you commit to doing something, and do your best to see it through. And if something comes up and you’re unable to make good on your promises, you need to own up to that, too.
7. Taking All The Credit
Who doesn’t love basking in the glory of a job well done? Perhaps you feel it’s well deserved; after all, it was your team that accomplished these goals. But leaders who take all the credit show a lack of appreciation for the hard work of those whose shoulders they stand on.
When you step aside and share the spotlight, you’ll find people will work harder for you. And in the long run, increased productivity and improved morale will be a better reward than a few minutes in the limelight.
8. Ignoring Risks
Effective risk management doesn’t mean you completely avoid risk. It means you’ve thought it through and you accept the risk — but you also have a strategy in place in case something does go wrong.
Many leaders avoid coming up with contingency plans, because who really wants to sit around and think of worst-case scenarios? But effective risk management is hugely important to allow you to weather those unexpected storms. Just thinking through what might go wrong will help you anticipate problems, so you’re able to react more quickly if something goes awry.
9. Letting Self-Doubt Overwhelm You
We all have that voice of self-doubt in our heads. The one that whispers that we aren’t as smart or as capable as we want to believe. The one that leaves us wondering if we really have what it takes.
A little self-doubt is normal, and it can keep you from becoming arrogant or pigheaded. But when you let that whisper turn into a roar and paralyze you, it becomes a problem. A good leader knows how to walk the line between confidence and skepticism. A little apprehension may serve you well, but hesitate too long and you’ll miss great opportunities.
10. Blaming Others
Excuses are easy to come by. Sometimes it’s hard to see our own shortcomings and we focus on the faults of those around us. We want to believe that someone else dropped the ball. This is a treacherous trap, because not only are you blaming others; you’re taking on a destructive “poor me” mindset.
The buck stops with you. Accept responsibility. Doing so empowers you more than blaming others ever will. Learn from your mistakes, correct course if necessary and move on. People will respect you if they see that you have integrity even during difficult times.
An indecisive leader is someone who seems stuck and unable to commit to a course of action, who is always backpedaling or making excuses about why they can’t come to a decision. They may fear making the wrong decision, or they don’t want to take responsibility for a decision they believe may be unpopular.
Possibly they just lack vision and are clueless about what to do next. In any case, they are seen as ineffective and nearly useless. But, most alarming of all, they are dead in the water. They have stopped swimming and started sinking. An effective leader is one who makes decisions and continues to move forward. Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Keep finding the courage, drive and energy to paddle on.
If you could replay your conversations throughout the day, would you hear comments laced with constant negativity? Do you find that you often rely on sarcasm or snide comments to get your point across? If so, cut it out now!
You may think you sound witty or that others find you funny, but really your habitual skepticism is a poison to your office. A constant stream of negativity will only create an air of antagonism. Use constructive criticism when giving feedback. Try building up those around you through positive comments. Never criticize someone in the moment, and focus on actions, not the person.
13. Being A Know-It-All
Have you ever worked for someone who was never wrong? The kind of person who sees him or herself as an expert in everything. This is the kind of situation that often results in disenchanted employees who are left to cope with a leader’s arrogance run amok.
To make matters worse, know-it-all bosses are frustrated because they feel like no one appreciates their vision and ideas. If you have a suspicion this might be you, it’s time to check your narcissistic tendencies. The best leaders are confident enough to admit when they don’t have all the answers, and wise enough to get more information before they make a decision.
14. Being An Emotional Tyrant
Emotional ups and downs are part of life. We all have good days and bad days. But a leader needs to keep those emotions in check and not let his or her bad day become everyone’s bad day. Even worse is being an emotional tyrant or using angry outbursts as a way of managing people. If those around you are uncertain about what kind of emotional monster you may blow up into, they’ll think twice about approaching you with a creative new idea or an ingenious solution to a problem.
15. Not Recognizing Hard Work
A pat on the back goes a long way. Recognition is a basic form of expressing gratitude for a job well done. When leaders fail to do this, it’s not only bad manners; it’s a morale killer. Public recognition when employees go above and beyond should be a part of how you communicate with your staff. It allows you to express your appreciation for all they do. If it’s done in a meaningful way, it can make employees feel more engaged and motivated.