Three things you should never do as a leader

When I first became a boss, no one handed me The Leadership Handbook telling me what to do – or more importantly, what NOT to do, in order to lead a team of people successfully. It was more of a trial and error situation – cue scraped knees and furrowed brows, both mine and my teams.

Boy, I wish someone had been a bit more explicit when it came to what to avoid at all costs. I didn’t commit all three of the following travesties, but I’m embarrassed to say I did fall prey to at least one of them.

So if you’re starting out on your leadership journey, or if you’re an old dog who needs to (un)learn a few tricks, let me spell out three non-negotiable NO GO’s when it comes to being a boss.

These bad behaviours can destroy team morale, create a toxic work environment, or simply make people hate turning up in the morning to work for you.

The three leadership transgressions you should avoid at all costs are as follows:

  1. Shouting at your employees. Add to that, any other form of overly aggressive behaviour – table thumping, standing over someone, using intimidating language. It makes people feel fearful and there’s no learning when there’s fear. Plus, you just look like a dick. If you recognise this heinous habit in yourself, it’s time to work on your emotional intelligence. For starters, look up Daniel Goleman and devour anything he discusses on this subject.
  2. Berating people in public. Public shaming is incredibly damaging to the person on the receiving end and to the culture of a place. Once again, it creates fear and disengagement. Feedback should always be constructive and delivered in private, with the person’s development and best interests in mind. Feedback should be a gift, not a weapon.
  3. Never apologising. No one is perfect and that includes you too, buddy. A leader who never apologises is seen as arrogant and pompous. People don’t tend to follow people they consider arrogant and pompous. Apologise for your muck ups – to customers, your team members and to your colleagues. Admitting your mistakes builds trust, and generates respect – two fundamental ingredients for skilled leadership and high performance.

You don’t want your employees jumping ship given the first opportunity. Good people are hard to come by. So do yourself and your team a favour and never commit these three leadership crimes.

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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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