10 Things That Lousy Leaders Do – Part 2 of 2

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by Steve Holt on September 18, 2013

Last week I shared part 1 with you about 5 things that lousy leaders do.  This week I’ll share with you the remaining 5 things that I think are the hallmarks of bad leadership.  This ain’t pretty.

6.  Feeling threatened by smart employees – I don’t care how smart you are, how talented you are, or how visionary you are, you only have so many hours in a day and you can’t do it all yourself.  Bad leaders will feel threatened by employees who are smarter and more talented than they are, and bad leaders will manipulate their employees to always make sure they ‘know their place’ and don’t get too much recognition, praise, and success.  Good leaders strive to hire those who can do certain things better than they can.  If you are a good leader then they will follow you because they need your leadership to enable them to be the best that they can be. Don’t feel threatened, help them utilized the awesome skills they have.

7.  Never admitting wrong – You know those kids who never accept blame for their mistakes?  They whine and complain about the injustices of the world that caused them to make that mistake, so it couldn’t be their fault.  Shifting blame to others when the decision you made didn’t work out as expected is a classic bad boss play.  Lousy leaders don’t accept blame for their mistakes because their ego won’t allow it.  So it was obviously their employee’s fault.  Narcissistic leaders fall into this category because it is all about them.

8.  Not praising/rewarding employees – I used to work for a boss who would take the suggestions that I would make and implement/announce them to the rest of the company as if it was their idea, never giving me credit for the great idea that I came up with.  Taking all the credit for things like that is a de-motivator to your employees and my opinion is that it’s insulting.  If you assume that your employees getting a paycheck is reward enough, then you don’t understand how important positive affirmation and praise is to people.  If your employees feel ‘valued’ and feel like their work and effort are recognized by the company (and in turn, but you) then that is a great motivator for them.  It makes them work even harder for you.  Lousy leaders don’t understand that because (like #7 above), it is all about them.

9.  Poor communication – You know that guy who never returns your calls or emails?  Yeah, that’s what lousy leaders do.  I understand that busy people don’t have time to constantly watch their emails or listen to voicemails.  But if other people rely on answers from you before they can continue working on their projects and they simply can’t get answers from you, that causes problems.  If you are the type of leader who never conveys the ‘bigger picture’ to your employees and you aren’t consistent and clear in doing that, then you are causing problems.  And if you don’t listen to what your employees tell you because you assume you are smarter than they are anyway (see #6 above), then you are part of the problem.  Communications problems are magnified with lousy leaders.

10.  Leading with fear and intimidation – Lousy leaders demand loyalty.  And when lousy leaders don’t get that loyalty that they demand then they either overtly or covertly marginalize or minimize the abilities of those people.  This is the ‘shut up and do what I tell you’ attitude that lousy leaders display all the time.  What’s worse, many lousy leaders will say things like “I have an open door policy, so you can come talk to me about anything you want.” but the reality is that you get punished for speaking up or having a differing opinion.  So then eventually everybody shuts up and turns into ‘yes-men’ because they are scared of you and don’t want to be punished by you.  You can get things done by fear and intimidation, no doubt. But good employees will eventually leave your organization because they don’t want to work for people like you.

So there you have it.  I would love to hear if you have any additional items to add to the list.  We have all worked for lousy leaders, and my guess is that a time or 2 you have been the kind of leader who has done some of these things, maybe without even realizing it.  Nobody wants to be a bad boss.  So don’t be one.

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