Leadership Bad Habits and How to Break Them

Leadership Bad Habits_Lead Vantage

“Healthy habits are learned in the same way as unhealthy ones – through practice” ~ Wayne Dyer  

Influential leaders understand the importance of self-awareness and are willing to consistently hold up the mirror and address their behavior’s good, bad, and ugly sides. In leadership, the habits we form can be either beneficial or destructive. How leaders show up dictates the playbook in our company. It sets the culture, standards, and norms of who you are and how you expect others to be and act.   

  • “No, we’re not doing that.” 
  • “This is how we’ve always done it!” 
  • “I’m right!” 
  • “Listen … I’ve been at this a long time and … ” 
  • “I don’t have time!” 
  • “It’s not my fault!”  

Sound familiar? In his book “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There,” Marshall Goldsmith outlines the twenty common fault behaviours that tend to appear in leadership positions. We may have learned these behaviors from those who led us or adopted them as our own. These behaviours develop over time and become our habits – a rinse and repeat of behaviours. These bad habits pose challenges in our interpersonal behaviour, which impacts how others perceive us and react to our leadership styles. Being aware of these behaviours, and taking steps to correct them, will significantly increase our abilities to lead strong teams and companies effectively. Remember, how you show up matters; as a leader, there is a lot at stake if you show up in ways that diminish others.  

Below we have captured a few of the everyday bad habits we have witnessed in leaders operating in companies across industries and of all sizes.  

  1.  Adding too much value. The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.   
    • Think about how you show up in meetings. Are you the first to speak up? Are you primarily the only voice in discussions? How often do your team members raise their hands to share opinions, thoughts, concerns, and ideas?  
  2. Passing judgement. The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.   
    • Do you disapprove of someone if they don’t do as you do? If you work long hours consistently, do you pass judgement by saying, “They’re lazy and have zero work ethic. They come in at 9 am and leave at 5 pm!”  
  3. Start with No, But, or However. The overuse of negative qualifiers that secretly say I’m right, you’re wrong.   
    • When team members offer their ideas, are you quick to shut them down? Do you say things like – “No, that won’t work! We’ve done it before, and it failed!” or “Good idea, but it won’t work for us!”.  
  4. Telling the world how smart we are. The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.   
    • “I’m two steps ahead of you!”, “I’ve been there and done that!”, “I come with ample experience,” and “I know what I’m talking about!”. These are common phrases used by leaders. Do you make these statements? How often? What impact does that have on your team?  
  5. Negativity. The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.   
    • “The caliber of hires these days is awful! They are nowhere close to the talent we once had!”, “Our industry is awful. It’s a dead end!”, “There’s no fixing this place/department!” When leaders engage in negative talk, they send a strong message that negativity and gossip are condoned and encouraged.   
  6. Making excuses. The need to reposition our annoying behaviour as a permanent fixture, so people have to live with it.   
    • “It’s not my fault!”, “Other factors came into play that resulted in this!”, “The pandemic caused a lot of problems!”, “Our technology impeded results!”, “The people we have working on this were not equipped to get it done right!”. When leaders use the blame game, they perpetuate destructive behaviours where team members hide mistakes and don’t take ownership or accountability for results.  
  7. Playing favourites. Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.   
    • We know who works hard and who we want to be assigned to our projects, initiatives, and files. The problem is it is often a lose/lose situation. When we overutilize top talent, we burn them out. When we underutilize talent, we are stifling their ability to learn and grow. In both cases, leaders create an environment of competition and inequity and increase the chance of turnover of talent, including top talent.  
  8. Failing to express gratitude. The most basic form of bad manners and selfishness.   
    • How often do you praise or recognize your team members? Could you confidently say that your team feels acknowledged, recognized, and appreciated for their work? Often, we find that a lack of recognition is one of the main reasons team members choose to exit a company. Void of recognition, they feel like a number.  

  “The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do” ~ James Clear  

When you look at this list, which bad habits will you abandon? How will you rethink, unlearn and create new habits in its place? 

Sofia and Linda_Lead Vantage 

Whether you’re an emerging leader or a seasoned leader, building habits that promote a healthy workplace is critical. At Lead Vantage LLP, we can help you identify healthy habits and work with you through training and coaching to build a tactical action plan to execute on these new habits in your everyday role. Contact www.leadvantage.ca today to learn more! 

Sofia Arisheh

Sofia Arisheh

Sofia Arisheh is a certified HR strategist, leader, and educator with extensive experience in multiple sectors. She specializes in aligning HR strategy with business strategy, focusing on employee-centric approaches to drive better business results.

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