Saturday, December 30, 2006

Twenty Habits of Ineffectual Leaders

Since starting this blog I have resisted the temptation to rant about past jobs and the people I have encountered in these positions. Many blogs are a place for lots of sour grapes, or just living in the past to assign blame. But a recent article in Business Week, Bad Habits That Can Hold You Back, struck such a chord with me that I feel compelled to devote some words to it in this posting.

Below are the twenty bad habits of ineffectual leaders identified in the BW article.

Winning Too Much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations—when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.

Adding Too Much Value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.

Passing Judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.

Making Destructive Comments: The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.

Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”: The overuse of these qualifiers, which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”

Telling the World How Smart We Are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.

Speaking When Angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.

Negativity: The need to share our negative thoughts, even when we weren’t asked.

Withholding Information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.

Failing to Give Proper Recognition: The inability to praise and reward.

Claiming Credit We Don’t Deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.

Making Excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.

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.

Playing Favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.

Refusing to Express Regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.

Not Listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.

Failing to Express Gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.

Punishing the Messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent, who are usually only trying to protect us.

Passing the Buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.

An Excessive Need to Be “Me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they exemplify who we are.

I once had a boss that exhibited nearly all of these bad behaviors. It was one of the most debillitating experiences of my professional career. No matter how hard I worked or what I accomplished, I remained in the shadow of this person's ego and indifference. Yet I continued to work for this person because I labored under a naïve notion that he would be found out by the company and be summarily dismissed or demoted. My mistake was to not move onward as soon as I recognized these symptoms. I enjoyed the work I was doing but ignored the effect this boss was having on my personal and professional life. To this day my family and I cringe whenever this person's name is mentioned.

If you see your boss or company management exhibiting the behaviors above, it is time for you to start looking around for something better.

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