20 (Bad) Habits of Highly Ineffective Leaders

May 21, 2009 by  

Many years ago, Stephen Covey wrote about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  That book is a classic.  Another book which has become a classic is Marshall Goldsmith’s, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

Goldsmith identified the 20 (plus one) most common pitfalls of leaders.  The following are quoted from chapter four:

  1. Winning too much:
    The need to win at all costs and in every situation.
  2. Adding too much value:
    The overwhelming desire to add our own two cents to every discussion.
  3. Passing judgment:
    The need to rate others an impose our standards on them.
  4. Making destructive comments:
    The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
  5. Starting with “No”, “But” or “However”:
    The overuse of theses negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
  6. Telling the world how smart we are:
    The need to show people we’re smarter that they think we are.
  7. Speaking when angry:
    Using emotional volativity as a management tool.
  8. Negativity:
    The need to share our negative thoughts even when we aren’t asked.
  9. Withholding information:
    The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
  10. Failing to give proper recognition:
    The inability to praise and reward
  11. Claiming credit we don’t deserve:
    The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
  12. Making excuses:
    The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
  13. Clinging to the past:
    The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past: a subset of blaming everyone else.
  14. Playing favorites:
    Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
  15. Refusing to express regret:
    The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
  16. Not listening:
    The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
  17. Failing to express gratitude:
    The most basic form of bad manners.
  18. Punishing the messenger:
    The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
  19. Passing the buck:
    The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
  20. An excessive need to be “me”:
    Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.
  21. Goal obsession:
    When we get so wrapped up in the goal that we lose sight of the mission.

Of course, recognizing one’s own bad habits is a starting point.  The next vital step is to wean ourselves off the habits and replace them with more effective leadership behaviors.

I highly recommend this book.

Sylva Leduc

aka The Leadership Strategist

Comments are closed.