We talk a lot about what it takes to be a good leader, but what about the things leaders should be avoiding?
The last thing any leader wants is for their team to think poorly of them, to be afraid of them, to complain about them at the water cooler — so how can you ensure that you are leading with your best self forward?
More times than not, bad leaders are not inherently evil, or setting out to destroy lives, or trying to sabotage their team, they just may have been put in a leadership role too soon and still have blind spots. The good news is, by raising self-awareness, most blind spots can be overcome.
While no one wants to admit they have flaws, blind spots are what will keep someone from reaching their full potential as a good leader, and so they need to be addressed.
How do you know if you are operating with blind spots in your mirrors? Here are some things to consider when assessing your leadership style:
You Lack Empathy
If you cannot see where other members on your team are coming from, or are misunderstanding their challenges and frustrations, you are, no doubt, lacking empathy.
When leading with empathy, leaders naturally foster trust and relationship building within their team. And while you cannot fake empathy, you can take steps to be proactive in developing an empathetic leadership style. Active listening, being fully present, tuning in to non-verbal cues and communication, pausing instead of reacting, asking questions to gain a better understanding, using “we” instead of “me,” imagining your team member’s point of view, and gaining a better understanding of your emotional literacy are all habits you can hone to become a more empathetic leader.
You Are An Absentee Leader
This mistake often stems from a misguided perception, the idea being that teams would prefer their leader to have a hands-off approach, allowing them more freedom “to do as they please.” However, this mindset is actually detrimental to the spirit of your team. Sure, no one wants to be micromanaged, but they do want to know that they have your support and input. A leader’s disconnectedness often leads to a higher turnover rate, not to mention, is the most common form of inept leadership.
It is also important to remember that though you may be physically present, if you are psychologically absent it is one and the same.
You Do Not Recognize Your Employees
This one is simple – take the time to let your team know that you appreciate them and their efforts. In doing so, you will build their confidence as well as their loyalty to you and your organization.
“In our interpersonal relations we should never forget that all our associates are human beings and hunger for appreciation,” wrote Dale Carnegie in How To Win Friends and Influence People. “It is the legal tender that all souls enjoy.”
You Struggle With Communication
If you cannot be upfront and honest with your team, then maybe you need to rethink having a team in the first place. Just because you are the leader does not mean that you cannot or should not openly discuss what is going on with your team. Think back to why you hired them in the first place — chances are it was to improve your business. How can you expect your team to make educated decisions if you are withholding necessary information? You can’t. When you are unable to communicate clearly with your team it causes confusion, uncertainty, fear, and anxiety, and no team can operate effectively under those conditions.
If you expect your team to openly communicate with you, it is only fair that you reciprocate.
You Tend To Be A Control Freak, Micromanager
Just as no team wants an absentee leader, they also do not want a helicopter leader either – someone who is leading their team under the notion that they can do the job better. If that were the case then you never would have needed to hire a team in the first place.
Of course, as a leader, you have a vision of how you want things to look, and chances are you hired your team based on that vision, so give them the opportunity to bring your vision to life. When you hover over your team the atmosphere becomes stifled, making it impossible for them to trust themselves and their creative process. A team is much more effective when they have the freedom to think for themselves, not to mention that they will be more open to trusting you enough to talk to and ask for your input.
As a leader, it is necessary to take the time to assess your habits so that you can break the bad ones before they break your team. Cultivating self-awareness allows you to get to know yourself and why you have the habits you do, as well as how to manage them. Being willing to step out of your comfort zone and take that deep look within yourself is the first step in becoming a better leader.
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“If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, then you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.” – Dale Carnegie