Are you an ineffective leader? It’s far from a comfortable question, but it’s necessary to ask of ourselves. We each have a need for routine critical self-examination. When we lack introspection, we often get stuck in our own patterns of thinking and acting without consideration. This means that we get trapped telling ourselves lies—and believing them—to the detriment of our careers and colleagues.
If we want to break out of our bad leadership habits, it starts with recognizing them. Only then can we begin to grow into true our true leadership potential.
In my time growing as a leader and entrepreneur, being around other leaders, and simply being in this world of professionals, I have come to recognize a few patterns of thinking that cause ineffective leadership. You can correct it if you recognize it.
6 Lies Ineffective Leaders Believe
1) “I am always misinterpreted/misrepresented.”
If you have a growing frustration that you are being misunderstood, misrepresented, or downright not listened to as a leader, it can be enormously frustrating. This can lead to lashing out in the wrong ways. However, what ineffective leaders don’t realize is that it is often about their own lack of solid communication skills. Instead of blaming the problems on incompetence or hostility from your team, examine yourself. Are you communicating in the most effective way that you can?
2) “No one should argue with me. Everyone should do what I say when I say it.”
Ineffective leaders aren’t necessarily ones who can’t get people to do what they say. They’re ones who can’t get their projects, companies, or whatever it is they are leading to reach their true potential. Ineffective leaders believe their word is law—they’re the king of the castle, and they rule with fear and trembling. This is ultimately ineffectual because while it may get short-term results, it leads to resentment and high team turnover. A far better approach is to view leadership as collaborate, with your role to direct, invest, and inspire.
3) “It’s all about the bottom line.”
Ineffective leaders have issues of single-mindedness. I hate to characterize it as utilitarian, but this is often how it takes form—a willingness to do whatever it takes, at whatever cost, to accomplish a goal. This philosophy of leadership doesn’t take care of its team, and while it may accomplish those goals, it often comes at a high cost. This also leads to high turnover, low morale, and mistakes. It can also result in short-term gains but a loss in sustainability over the long-term.
4) “If everyone likes me, I am a good leader.”
Conflict is an essential part of leadership. People-pleasers rarely make good leaders, because they are almost always trading away their power and authority in order to make others happy. Great leaders have to be okay with others being dissatisfied with them, and okay with confrontation in order to rectify and address issues. Being liked isn’t the same and being a good leader—it usually just means being a good pushover.
5) “Everything has to be perfect.”
Perfectionism is often seen as a positive trait, but in truth, it is detrimental in most cases. In the case of leadership, because nothing is ever perfect, it can cause you to only ever see what is wrong. Because you, as a leader, want to inspire others to get better, want to strive for excellence and great results, it can be difficult to stomach anything short of perfection. However, when you let this fixation on the negative sneak in, it leads to ineffective leadership. It leads to poor morale as your feedback is exclusively negative. You struggle to recognize the positive and see and multiply what is good and working.
6) “If you want it done right, do it yourself.”
When you’re at the top in a position of leadership, it can be enormously easy to think that you are, in fact, the best. This is the first of many mistakes you can make. Ineffective leaders believe in their inherent superiority. Not only does this make them incredibly difficult to listen to and work with, but it creates a lot of problems when it comes down to doing the actual work as well.
First, the ineffective leader will insist on doing the work himself. If not actively stealing tasks from others (which is not an effective use of his time or money), he will micromanage them. This, naturally, will cause his team to become resentful. Then there is the issue of credit. A leader who feels he is superior or self-important will often take credit for the successes of his team—which will ultimately lead to his downfall as it creates a model of instability and unsustainability.
These lies barely scratch the surface when it comes to what causes ineffective leadership. Becoming a great leader takes daily self-examination, awareness, and improvement. It's a journey that demands a humble spirit, being a servant, and daily working to invest in others.
How has your leadership style changed over time? Share your experience in the comments.