John Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Great leaders aren’t easy to find. I’ve experienced good ones and not-so-good ones.
1. They don’t listen.
Most people don’t listen to understand. Instead, we think about what we want to say next while the other person is talking. Many leaders don’t care what the people around them are saying. They don’t connect with the people following them. But if we don’t listen, the people we’re supposed to be leading will eventually stop coming to us.
Andy Stanley says, “Leaders who refuse to listen will soon find themselves surrounded by people with nothing to say.” If you never listen to the people you work with, they will stop talking to you. People who need your help won’t ask for it if they think you don’t care. If this is you as a leader, learn to cut distractions, speak less, actively listen, and prioritize people over your personal schedule.
2. They complain.
This is the leader who constantly focuses on the negative or where the team’s falling short. Sure, there’s a time to talk about the numbers and to call out the negative reality. But do you focus solely on the negative and neglect the positive? This leader is one who always seems dissatisfied or annoyed. For too long, we’ve thought of this person as the “strong leader” or the one who “gets the troops in order.” But over time, the complaining leader doesn’t help the relationship.
In Saving Private Ryan, Captain Miller (played by Tom Hanks) has a moment with a ranger who’s griping to him about the mission. Captain Miller says, “I don’t gripe to you… I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down.” If you’re a leader, guard against complaining. And don’t mistake complaining for good leadership.
3. They micromanage.
This is the boss who gives excessive supervision to employees. Instead of telling an employee what task needs to be accomplished and when, this leader watches the employee’s actions closely and gives frequent criticism of the employee’s work or processes. Maybe this leader lacks trust in those who follow. But sadly, not only is this leader doing more work than necessary, this behavior exhausts followers. Ultimately, this leader should learn to trust the people picked for each position and let them work their own way.
How do you know you’re a micromanager? You resist delegating tasks. You ask for too many updates or govern too many details. You don’t just tell others what needs to be done—you also tell them how to do it. And you tell them without regard for something a lot of leaders overlook: Your team already knows how to do it. You can grow into a better leader, but you’ll need to learn to focus on the bigger picture. Over time, you must filter your role in leadership through what’s most helpful to the vision. Learn to give up control. The more you do this, the more your stress levels—and the stress levels of those around you—will lower.
4. They gossip.
Have you ever served a leader who not only talks too much but talks about things they shouldn’t? This leader is eager to talk about others. This may be rumors or other people’s news, but it’s typically negative things about a person. But, depending on the news or information, even if it’s positive, you must consider if it’s yours to share.
If the person being talked about isn’t present, it’s best not to talk about that person—good or bad. As a leader, set the example. Have a personal zero-tolerance policy for talking about others. You can tell stories and give examples, but be careful how much you say with names attached. If you’re a leader who gossips about colleagues who aren’t around, the colleagues who hear you do it will start to wonder what you say about them when they’re not around. Gossip sows distrust in the people closest to you.
5. They engage in hypocrisy.
This leader says one thing but does another. These are the leaders who say they have a certain value or care about a certain thing but then don’t live it out. Their actions do not connect well to their words. These leaders need to learn how to practice what they preach. If you’ve been saying one thing and doing another, it’ll take time for you to be a better leader. Odds are, you’ve eroded trust and it will take time to build it back. Start by following through on the smallest promises. No one wants to follow a leader whose words and actions don’t match.
What are some other frustrating things leaders do? Share in a comment below.