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Bad habits that harm leadership effectiveness

Despite many leadership frameworks, models and books, there are still frequent examples of ineffective leaders. 

The Gallup group’s research highlights the leadership deficit. Research found that 82% of employees see their leaders as uninspiring, only 15% of employees are engaged at work, 60% of employees are emotionally detached from work, and only one in three employees strongly agree that they trust their organisation’s leadership. 

 Leading today isn’t easy. There are competing demands, constant changes, and never-ending pressure. But it’s also a choice and a privilege. Leaders face choices every day, which can create a culture of denial and exclusion or one of opportunity, growth and inclusion.  

However, leadership is never ‘one size fits all’ because it is personal and contextual, so there is no single and precise template to follow. 

Securing success demands that each leader steps up to find their unique style, which changes as they advance and evolve and the needs of their working environment shift. 

 Central to this is the leader being consciously aware of their impact and alert to the bad habits that could negatively impact their effectiveness. Challenge yourself and consider which of these seven bad habits apply to you. 

1. Not willing to change

Professor Robert Kegan and Dr Lisa Lahey, who examined why many crucial organisational change efforts fail, found that one of the core problems is the gap between what is required and a leader’s level of development. They write, “…it may be nearly impossible for us to bring about any important change in a system or organisation without changing ourselves (at least somewhat)…”  

It’s easy to get stuck in your ways and to see the traits that brought you to your leadership role as the skills and capabilities that will carry you forward.   

However, in a constantly changing world, success requires leaders to embrace the notion that successful organisational transformation requires not just change for those around them but personal change for themselves. 

2. Smartest person in the room syndrome

The downfall of many great companies can be traced to the hubris and arrogance of their leaders. Having a fixed mindset, the leaders close themselves off from feedback and feel they have nothing more to learn. 

In contrast, effective leaders know they don’t have all the answers. They constantly seek to push the boundaries, question, inquire and learn more. They are adept at listening to others, drawing connections and highlighting insights. 

3. Surround yourself with sycophants

While surrounding yourself with ‘yes’ people may make life easier in the short term, it doesn’t create long-term, sustainable business outcomes. 

Often, the person with the dissenting opinion or probing questions generates critical insights. Consequently, seeking out different perspectives is crucial because this diversity of thought gives rise to adaptive and progressive thinking. So too, being ready to listen to news that is difficult to hear.   

4. Refuse to hire people smarter

Everyone knows the criticality of getting the right people into the right roles. However, leaders can be uncomfortable hiring people more intelligent than them, fearing it will show them up somehow.   

Successful leaders know they can’t be ‘all things to all people’ and deliberately seek out team members to complement and enhance their effectiveness and impact. 

5. Play favourites

People are acutely aware when leaders treat people differently. When you allocate resources and rewards and recruit and promote unfairly, it gets noticed and creates tension in the team.  

The best leaders recognise team members have different needs but that everyone wants to feel valued and respected. They take a genuine interest in their team members and make time for them.    

6. Not getting enough sleep

When your brain is tired, you tend to take the path of least resistance, letting past expectations and assumptions drive your thoughts and actions, and you’ll decide the way you’ve always decided.  

When you are rested, you’ll be far better equipped to deal with work pressures, manage a heavy workload and make well-reasoned decisions. 

7. Put self care last

It’s almost impossible to lead well when you are tired, stressed or exhausted. Taking time out for you and allocating space in your day to decompress is not wasted. Whether it’s exercise, meditation, connecting with friends or hanging out with your favourite furry friend, you need ‘you’ time each day. 

It’s vital time for you to take stock, recharge and ready yourself for what comes next. 

Michelle Gibbings is a workplace expert and the award-winning author of three books. Her latest book is ‘Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one’.  www.michellegibbings.com. 

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