5 Things Leaders Should Never Do

When mastering a new skill, in addition to focussing on what to do, it can also be helpful to be mindful of what NOT to do. When it comes to effective leadership, being aware of behaviour patterns and traits to avoid can be useful – not only for our own personal development, but for the success of the organisation as a whole.

Here are  5 things leaders should never do:

1. Over-talking and under-listening. Good leaders listen a lot more than they talk. Bad ones do the opposite. Interrupting people mid-sentence with comments such as ”we’ve tried that before and it doesn’t work” or, if you dismiss others’ ideas prematurely, you are guaranteed to shut down creativity and innovation within your team.

It can also breed low self-confidence, and as people become increasingly reluctant to voice their own opinions, we become the lead character in our very own soliloquy – not the type of starring role we’re looking for.

Not listening encourages one-way traffic.

Not listening encourages one-way traffic.

2. Failing to deliver on promises. Not following through with a commitment to a promised task can build mistrust, particularly with matters which have a deep personal impact – such as pay rises and promotions, but also with promises of resources. It is a better approach to be more cautious with your promises – and deliver on them.

3. Not recognising the unique contributions people make. Or, completely disregarding one’s efforts altogether, may breed complacency and low-productivity. If people try their best to do a good job (and most people do), and that effort goes unnoticed, they will eventually think there is no point and are likely to simply stop trying.

4. Speaking negatively about others. Disrespectful comments to team members about their colleagues, such as “Jo is never going to make it further, but you are much better at x,y,z than him”, may create unease, as people begin to wonder what is being said about them behind their back.

5. Failing to give (or seek and accept) feedback. If we want to create confusion and anger, then an information vacuum is the perfect way to go about it. Alternatively, we can always save it up for the annual performance appraisal to finally unload our year’s worth of well-mixed concrete.

Takeaway: We can all be guilty of these practices at some point or another and learning to be a better leader is a lifelong journey. We all make mistakes, but knowing some of the key things to avoid before they happen can be immensely helpful in unlocking our full potential, and paving the pathway for leadership success.

Best-selling author Roy H. Williams sums it up in this quote:

“A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.”

What other practices do you think leaders should avoid?


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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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