In my constant search for the truth about what it takes for great leaders to succeed, I keep coming back to one undeniable fact:
In order to identify and appreciate good leadership, we need to understand what constitutes bad leadership first.
What a significant moment it is in our professional lives when we truly understand for the first time that just because a person holds a position of leadership, it does not necessarily mean that they should.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been asked, “Is there a fast and simple test to quickly determine the leadership ability of a person?”
The answer, well, could be yes – there are a plethora of such personality assessments and profile evaluation tests out there. But fast and simple does not equal effective.
The reason I do not keep too much faith in these tests is because they are quite theoretical in nature, and often subject to bias.
But I have good news. There is a better way to assess someone’s leadership prowess: hand them some responsibility and see how they handle it.
Even when they are inexperienced, good leaders still find a way to get the job done. I suppose, this is the fundamental way to identify a good leader: they produce results. By this definition, bad, or rather, poor leaders, fail to do so.
But don’t worry, I’m not just ending the article here. Most of us, if not all of us have experienced the repercussions of inadequate leadership at some point during our careers. More challenging than identifying this inadequacy in others, is recognizing and accepting where you are being a bad leader yourself.
Today, I’ll discuss how you can identify bad leaders by recognizing a few simple traits that should be obvious, but often miss the eye.
1. They’re on a Power Trip, Not a Trip to Empowerment
A boss’s position does not just land you with responsibility, but offers you a whole lot of control and influence as well.
One of the cardinal signs of a bad leader is that the moment they are awarded this power, it gets to their heads. Once that happens, they often begin to abuse their rights in order to boost their own feelings of self-worth.
This takes away from one of the foremost duties of a leader: to shift this power into team empowerment.
True leaders make a conscious effort to use these rights to inspire the team, and invest time in developing them, helping them wherever they need that boost.
In other words, poor leaders choose to exert control over their employees, when they should be guiding and setting direction for them in order to help them grow.
2. They Want You to Listen, But They Never Do
No matter whether you are an executive at the starting line, or a boss with years of leadership experience, communication is a critical skill that you’ll always need.
A good listener does not equate someone who stays quiet while another speaks and shares their point of view. Good listeners pay attention to body language, and confirm their comprehension of what they’ve just heard. Then, they share open and honest feedback on what they’ve heard the other say.
Poor listeners often make poor leaders. Some tend to bristle at anyone who tries to share a differing point of view. Others just tend to get side-tracked within a couple of minutes of listening to you. Then there are those who enjoy stealing the spotlight too much to give the stage to anyone else.
What makes a leader bad is not just being a poor listener, but also not being self-aware of their own style of communication.
Leaders simply must be good listeners and good communicators if they want a shot at success, no two ways about it.
3. They Fail to Lead Themselves
A captain who doesn’t know where the ship is going, and doesn’t even plot the journey on a chart, is a sorry captain indeed.
The same way, good leadership means knowing what you want to accomplish at any given time down the road, for your company, for your career, and for your workforce.
A leader with a lack of vision does not care about the direction in which they want tasks and projects to go, let alone about the direction in which the organization is headed.
Bad leaders invite chaos and confusion into the workplace due to their indecisiveness and inability to plan for potential issues and potential opportunities.
These leaders are often unable to endure the test of time, no matter how charming, persuasive, intelligent or savvy a person they may be.
Bad leaders are afraid of confrontation, whether that means intervening in a workplace conflict or taking the initiative to create solutions or opportunities. They don’t learn from their mistakes; rather, they make the same mistake over and over again and expect different results.
They are not driven by motivation to show that they are taking responsibility and ownership as a leader, and using their power to generate positive results.
If you feel that you embody one or all of the abovementioned traits, remember that it does not doom you to leadership failure forever. However, it is a sign that some changes should be made to your management style to get back on the track to success.
Leaders who wish to be known as great someday, can accomplish this goal with some hard work, persistence, dedication, and yes, definitely some self-awareness.