However, it’s also worthwhile taking the time to understand what bad leaders do so that we can learn what to avoid which can be just as helpful.
Over my 25 years in leadership, here are some of the habits of unsuccessful and ineffectual leaders that I have seen, and in some cases, their justification for having them.
These are habits best avoided, if possible!
1. Believe they have all the answers
They know that the reason that they have been put in charge is that they are smarter and better than everyone else. So when it comes to deciding strategy, solving problems, or resolving issues, there is no need, or point in involving anyone else.
2. React, don’t respond
Driven by their emotions, they react quickly to situations without worrying about facts or the repercussions of their actions.
They can always show good emotional intelligence by apologizing later.
Bad leaders like to gamble and take big risks.William Thomas Cain/Getty Images
3. Take big risks, the bigger the better
They like to gamble and take big risks. Believing in the adage “Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained” and that Smart Risk taking is for wimps.
When I questioned a decision that one boss was taking his response was, “That’s not your concern, I get paid big bucks to take the big risks and make the tough calls.”
Personally, I thought he got paid the big bucks to take the right risks and to be successful, but what did I know.
4. Believe that talking about it and doing it are the same thing
I always remember the first boss I worked for, when the CEO asked him how it was going, he said: “It’s going great, we have been discussing the problem for two days now.” The only problem was, that was two days that the business couldn’t operate, and we were no closer to finding a solution.
5. Focus on blame not solutions
It’s better to know whose fault it is so that we can fire them and make sure this doesn’t happen again.
There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance.Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
6. Believe their own PR
There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance; the former helps build trust in the leader, the latter destroys it. As soon as you start to believe your own PR, then you are leaning more towards arrogance and starting down a path that is going to end in tears.
7. Don’t waste valuable time on planning and preparation
Sometimes you just have to dive and get it done. Don’t worry about what’s involved, or whether you’re focused on the symptom or root cause, just do it. My favorite comment was, “we can afford to spend time and money on planning; we just need to get started.”
Which was interesting because we found the time and money to do it again correctly, after that first attempt failed badly.
8. Hire people beneath them
As a leader, it is critical that you are the most skillful and knowledgeable member of the team, that way everyone can focus on their job rather than working out how they could replace you.
I worked at one company where the boss told me that he liked to recruit from the bottom quartile because it kept the costs down. He then added, “the only problem with that was the results sucked.”
Ineffective leaders believe that a lot of short-term success will lead to long-term success.Matt Cardy/Getty Images
9. Focusing on instant success
It’s all about results, and if we find that they are not coming, then we need to move quickly on to another topic.
They believe that a lot of short-term success will lead to long-term success
10. Focus on the big picture, not the details
Don’t worry about the details, focus on the big picture, as that will keep you motivated. We all know the devil is in the details, but that could lead to concerns, a lack of belief and even worse, de-motivation.
11. Focus on weaknesses not strengths
As leaders we cannot have or show any weaknesses, so we need to work on eliminating them, or failing that, hiding them.
Stubbornness and determination are not the same.Alexander Koerner/Getty Images
12. Confuse stubbornness with determination
“Winners never quit, and quitters never win” is a great approach to achieving results.
However you’re bordering on stubbornness if your approach is failing but you refuse to change it.
13. Doesn’t play well with others
It’s hard to play well with others when you adapt a command and control approach to leadership. People like to be led not managed.
14. Think praise is for wimps
It’s ok to praise people once we have achieved success, but praising people just to keep them happy is not a good approach to building a strong, resilient team. We’ve got to be mean to keep them keen, and praising people too often makes a team soft.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
15. Take, don’t give
The more we take, the more we have, that’s how winners are made.
It’s a dog eat dog world, and we have to fight for our share.
16. Quick to criticize
If you want people to improve, you need to point out their mistakes quickly and clearly. It’s also best to do this publicly so that others can learn too.
17. Easily distracted
Never content with their current goals, they are constantly looking for the next big thing that the get involved in. I think the reason for this is that it’s much easier to start something new than to finish something important.
18. Make excuses
There are a million and one reasons why things don’t work out as planned, so it’s not always our fault, and we need to remember that so don’t become too de-motivated.
One boss told me never ever accept responsibility, as it could be career limiting, and to always have someone ready to blame or a good excuse handy.
19. Love to micro manage
It’s hard to trust everyone, so by micro-managing your staff, you can keep a close eye on things, and look to offer advice or step in if things start to go wrong.
20. Practice inconsistently
It’s great to be inconsistent because it keeps your team guessing, which in turn keeps them on their toes. Predictability, on the other hand, can lead to complacency.