Bad leadership: 10 mistakes every great leader avoids

By Robert Half on 6 October 2016

Do you aspire to be a business leader? Many professionals dream of climbing the career ladder and reaching a position where they can manage their own team. However to become a successful leader, there are certain qualities you need, some of which must be developed over time.

Being a business leader requires a conscious effort to monitor your behaviour and your leadership traits to ensure you haven't developed any bad leadership qualities. 

When you're in a leadership role, you're there to provide an example for people to follow. And it can be all too easy to make mistakes.

For managers looking to improve, knowing how to avoid these bad leadership mistakes clearly gives you an advantage in business. If you are aware of the various pitfalls, you will be more likely to recognise these bad habits and adjust your leadership style accordingly.

Here are ten bad leadership mistakes to avoid if you're working in a leadership role:

1. Micro-managing employees

If you don't give employees some decision-making ability and autonomy, don’t expect them to remain with your organisation for long. At the same time, you are more likely to burn yourself out by rushing around trying to control every member of the team and dictate their actions.

As a leader, you need to have the confidence and trust in your team to execute their tasks independently, and be there should they reach out to you for guidance.

2. Being a know-it all

Nobody in business has all the answers, and nobody is always right. People who pretend they are all-knowing and never make a mistake are very difficult to work for, and with. They find it hard to win the respect and trust of their employees.

It's important to be open to suggestions, and where possible adopt a collaborative decision-making approach. You’ll find after a while that employee motivation will improve when you have the humility to listen to what your team have to offer.

3. Hiding in the office

The best leaders and managers are not only visible in the office, but they engage with employees and get actively involved.

As far as bad leadership mistakes go, this is important as you need to set a positive example for the workforce, rather than sitting in your office behind a shut door. A leader needs to be more than a distant figurehead.

4. Being too friendly

At the same time, you can't be too friendly with employees. This is a bad leadership mistake; a certain degree of distance is needed so you can retain your authority and lead your team effectively.

Otherwise you risk subordinate employees jeopardising the performance and productivity of your team by taking advantage of their relationship with you.

5. Demanding “perfect” results

Employees are unlikely to respond well to demands for perfect performance. Positive results and good practice needs to be encouraged by nurturing staff, supporting them and reinforcing desired behaviours.

Sometimes it will be necessary to offer constructive criticism to underperforming employees who can do better, but it's important to be sensitive and empathetic.

6. Sitting on the fence

Difficult decisions regularly need to be made in business, and it's up to senior members of staff to make them. If you're indecisive and unwilling to commit to one course of action or another, this creates a leadership void. Your authority will be undermined.

If you're in a leadership position, you need to make decisions and be accountable for the outcomes.

7. Taking credit for other people's work

If an employee makes a valuable contribution or comes up with a great idea, the last thing they want is to discover that their boss has claimed all the credit. This is the worst kind of bad leadership.

By doing so, these leaders will crush morale and completely eradicate trust with the employee and team as a whole. A good leader gives due credit to their employees and fosters encouragement for innovative ideas.

8. Recruiting ordinary people

If you're going to drive your organisation forward, then it's important to avoid making common hiring mistakes. As a leader or manager you’re expected to have the ability to look for exceptional people who are prepared to go the extra mile and aim for fantastic results.

If you settle for average people, you'll usually get average outcomes. Always look to set the bar high when you are recruiting for skilled professionals.

9. Neglecting your own development

A bad leadership mistake that is often overlooked (and can let down even the best leaders and managers) is neglecting one's own career development. Failing to upgrade your leadership skills and competences can put you in a vulnerable position.

To be an innovative leader, you need to be someone who understands the sector and role better than the people working for you. If you overlook training, coaching and mentoring, your skills and knowledge may become obsolete.

10. Being inflexible

As you progress your career, an essential part of career development is honing your leadership qualities. However, one leadership mistake many make is the failure to adapt and change.

The best leaders need to adjust their leadership style to suit the needs and personalities of their teams - not just changing one quality, but adapting all their skills to fit and suit the scenario they operate in.

Bad Leadership can offer lessons to learn

No leader wants to be regarded as a bad boss. To become a great leader takes time.

Most leaders will make these mistakes along the way, but those who learn and grow will be a step ahead in their career.

This article was originally Bad leadership: 10 mistakes every great leader avoids from the Robert Half UK Blog.

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