Contrary to popular belief, leadership isn’t always a natural born trait. It’s possible to learn leadership and to become increasingly skilled at leading others in both personal and professional capacities. The flip side of this is that if one is a natural born leader (i.e., they have the traits that are commonly associated with leaders inherent in their personalities), it’s very easy to fall into poor leadership habits.
This can be counterproductive and dangerous. There’s still time left in the year to improve, so let’s focus some of that energy on quitting the really harmful leadership habits that often arise as the result of using tactics that worked in the past, a general ignorance of how to lead or being placed in a leadership role without proper training.
Bad Leadership Habit 1: Poor Communication
You know the type. One minute, they’re dashing off an email that makes virtually no sense and the next they’re requesting a three-hour phone call to go over a relatively minute project that you’re not even working on. Or they ask you to make something the very highest priority and then tell you to scrap the plan next week, just as you’re finishing your project plan. Seventy percent of small- to mid-size businesses claim that ineffective communication is their primary problem. Poor communication usually stems from poor organization; it can lead to inter-office frustrations, dropped deadlines and missed opportunities. Leaders become micromanagers and bottlenecks abound when this habit goes totally unchecked. According to 360 Solutions, a business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication, which translates to a cost of $528,443 dollars per year. Plainly put, this isn’t a habit you can afford to keep.
Prone to affect: Startup founders, skilled contributors moved into management
Replace with: Better organization. You don’t have to be a naturally organized person to organize your work life so that it works for you AND your employees. There’s no shortage of productivity hacks and note-taking or recording platforms that can help clarify your intentions. The examples listed above stem from poor time management and the erroneous assumption that employees can read minds. Practice by taking great meetings notes and having staff repeat instructions back to you. Reduce communication by email if possible and allow employees with organizational skills to create processes that make it easier for them to do their jobs (even if that’s not the way you’ve always done it).
A business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication. Click To Tweet
Bad Leadership Habit 2: Hoarding Knowledge
Do you have a star player on the team? Is she constantly coming up with new and innovative ways of doing things? Does she take initiative instead of waiting around for you to tell her twice? Congratulations, you’ve hired and trained this valuable employee well. So why are you so threatened? Some leaders fall into the trap of thinking like a line worker who doesn’t want to get passed over for a raise. You’re not in competition with your employees. Yet you feel that if they become better than you at a given task, somehow you won’t be “king of the hill” — so you hoard knowledge in order to keep that star employee in her place. A study from the Academy of Management Journal discovered employees have nothing to gain from hiding their insights from co-workers, and just end up hurting themselves by doing so. Leaders have even more to lose by hoarding knowledge, as this can cause direct reports to become discouraged and disengaged when they find their efforts unappreciated or worse, criticized.
Prone to affect: Middle managers promoted over coworkers, those in performance-based cultures
Replace with: Knowledge sharing. We’ve all heard the platitudes that you should never be the smartest one in the room. What if leaders really began living it? Instead of trying to keep all the interesting knowledge to yourself, leaders should start giving away as much as possible to their employees while seeking out new information. Inexpensive internal tools like Evernote and Yammer are incredible ways to get over your perceived place at the top of the mountain.
Instead of trying to keep all the knowledge, leaders should start giving away as much as possible. Click To Tweet
Bad Leadership Habit 3: Doing It All
If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. Right? This bad leadership habit can make your employees completely dependent on YOUR expertise, crippling their potential for growth. Do you find yourself correcting every social update, writing every job description, personally handling every slightly thorny case that comes across your desk because “they simply don’t do it properly”? Trust me: If your organization, department or company could run with just one person, it would. And your employees will never be able to step in and assist in any meaningful way if you keep pushing them down. In fact, putting the smartest guy in the room in the middle of every important decision can result in entire teams, departments and even companies grinding to a halt.
Prone to affect: Change management alums, those managing entry-level staff, entrepreneurs
Replace with: Delegation the right way. Micromanaging is a bad habit, but sometimes it’s important to know how to tell a team how to do things specifically and exactly. Those times include: training and onboarding, during a merger or acquisition, serious complaints or quality control issues and new product or service lines. If none of these are the case, learn the fine art of delegation and in turn, actual leadership. When leaders focus their time on leadership-worthy tasks, a team usually rises to the occasion. You can help by allowing your team to have meetings without you, giving them guidance around the goal of a project rather than specific execution advice and by setting clear expectations.
Trust me: If your organization could run with just one person, it would. @marenhogan Click To Tweet
Bad Leadership Habit 4: Equating Activity With Progress
This is one of the worst habits of all. Creating an environment where one must “roll the silverware” (former server-speak for looking busy) can create a lack of focus in your staff and take their eyes off the real goals. Look, not everyone can be “heads down” all the time. Humans need breaks in order for creativity to flourish. If you insist on a nose-to-the-grindstone mentality, you may burn out your employees before the afternoon slump.
Prone to affect: Everyone over 30 years old
Keep reading at Forbes.com to see what to replace these habit with…