Challenging and Transforming 6 Negative Leadership Traits

Negativity can take hold of any one of us if we let it. In leadership, there is a place for certain types of negativity. Negative feedback, for example, can be a necessary tool to help employees recognize their flaws and areas in which they need to grow. But for those of us in leadership, slipping into negative thinking or holding onto negative leadership traits can be detrimental to our role.

Changing negative thinking is harder than it looks, though, isn’t it?

If we want to transform how we think and how we lead by switching those negatives and turning them into positives, it usually starts with a simple change in attitude.


6 Negative Leadership Traits, Transformed

Trait: Lacking transparency.

Transformation: Building trust.

One of the biggest problems at all levels of leadership is a lack of transparency. When companies, managers, and bosses leave their teams and employees in the dark, it creates frustrations, disillusionment, and resentment. It can become a breeding ground for rumors and all sorts of negative feelings, especially when things aren’t going so well.

When you extend transparency and let people in, little by little, whether it’s in sharing small pieces of information or being honest about projects or pay, it can build a great deal of trust. It starts by trusting other people with the facts.

Trait: Shifting the blame.

Transformation: Taking responsibility.

It’s human nature to try to save face. Unfortunately for us, trying to save face usually means either being in denial or blaming other people for our mistakes. It’s far better in the long run to simply own up and take responsibility for our errors—not just because it’s the bigger thing to do, but because it helps us grow. If we acknowledge our mistakes, in whole or in part, we’re able to better examine what we can do better next to avoid the same mistakes and losses.

Trait: Dismissing every idea that isn’t yours.

Transformation: Finding the best solution, no matter where it comes from.

Ego can be a huge problem in leadership. Even if we don’t see it in ourselves, we’ve seen in it plenty of high-profile leaders in the business world. We know the type: they think that any idea that isn’t theirs isn’t worth consideration. Their employees jump through hoops trying to get the boss to believe that they actually thought of it, just so their ideas will be considered.

When we are so convinced that our opinion is the only right one, we miss out on a lot of good ideas and plenty of right solutions. We’re not always right, and I think we’ve all been painfully convinced of the fact at some point or another.

As leaders, it’s important to seek out the best solution, not just our solution. Humility is a crucial piece of the puzzle. As easy as it can be to grow egotistical at the top, that disillusionment is more dangerous than anything.

Trait: Valuing experience above all.

Transformation: Seeing the potential in everyone.

Experience is great. It’s certainly the best teacher. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to listen to the voice of experience, which is why it’s so tough to say that maybe we shouldn’t listen to experience all the time. What do I mean by that?

What I mean is this: sometimes those of us in leadership will always choose to listen to the employee who has been working with us for 20 years, no matter how set in their ways they are, no matter how "if it’s broke don’t fix it" they are, rather than take a chance on the fresh-faced 20-something who wants to dream and innovate.

We steamroll over potential because we’d rather play it safe in the name of speaking for experience. My advice is this: let experience inform decisions, but never let experience be an excuse not to take a chance on someone who has potential.

Trait: Creating caveats.

Transformation: You don’t allow any excuses.

If there’s any word to eliminate from your vocabulary, let it be but. But this, but that. Excuses. Reasons not to pursue something that you know you should. Reasons to doubt. Should you weigh everything with a critical eye? Absolutely. Due diligence? Every time.

But there’s no room for making excuses. If you make excuses for behavior, for mistakes, for missed deadlines or opportunities, it’s only going to give others a reason to make their own excuses.

Don’t give them a reason.

Trait: Seeing only the problems.

Transformation: Find the opportunity.

When presented with a challenge, it’s all-too-easy to become exhausted and overwhelmed by it all. We get discouraged and only see the problems that need to be solved. We think about the risk and what can go wrong.

Instead of thinking about problems in this light, transform your thinking: look for the opportunity. Even if your problem is coming from a mistake or an error. There’s an opportunity somewhere. If you want to be a truly great leader, you have to seek out the opportunity and turn problems into great outcomes.

This year, I encourage you to do just that: look for every opportunity!