Whether you are a new startup founder building out your team or that up and coming corporate manager leading a team, you undoubtedly should be thinking of ways to be an effective leader. Over the past 30 years of managing teams as well as advising rising executives, I have found that the first step is a healthy dose of self-awareness of the importance of effective leadership.

Leadership has to be intentional not accidental. You can't limp in to great leadership. And you can't make it up on the fly. Ultimately leadership is about  character and how you want the important people in your organization to view your character.

First and foremost, let's break down five of the more painful signs that you are a poor leader:

You take credit for wins you had nothing to do with. Let's get the big one out in the open right away. Great leaders are happy to give others credit for company wins. Sharing credit can also be harmful. Feel secure in your role that if the team wins - you win, without the overt attempt to take some of the spotlight. This gets painfully worse when you stand up and take credit for things that you had no role in. Those in the know immediately discount your character.

You don't empower your employees or peers. One person (you) can accomplish so much. You need a team to take your business to the next level. Creating opportunities to empower others should be a critical leg of your leadership strategy. Are you taking all of the authority away from others and micro-managing? This is not empowering and counter productive. 

You spend more time on activities that raise you instead of the organization. I find this with many new CEO's as they blur the lines between creating awareness for the company and themselves. In this social media crazed world these lines get moved every day. So be conscious of the line and spot check your behavior with others you trust. Vanity activities can be a killer for both you and your company.

You lack focus and bounce all over the place. There is nothing that drives a team crazy like a leader who is all over the place. Strategy of the day and extreme daily/weekly pivots are a sure sign that you have no idea what you are doing. This will guarantee that your best people will jump ship. Vision has a role but can't be modified on a whim. Use your team to make these big decisions and you will get buy in and hopefully a better strategy to boot. Change direction too many times and it will be apparent that you are a weak leader.

You take energy not create energy. Here lies the big kahuna. As the leader of your organization you must--and I mean must--provide positive energy to your group. There are two ways to look at this. If you take energy away for your own purposes, that is energy that the teams needs to perform well. If you can find ways to give energy, your team will benefit in its productivity. Again, how can you be very intentional about this energy flow between you and your team?

Leadership comes in many forms, as I have shared on many occasions here at Inc., with one overwhelming piece of advice: your style has to be authentic to you. Introverts, sales mavens, tech visionaries all have room to be great leaders. However, there is no room for bad leadership when you operate on the above behaviors.

Published on: Jul 11, 2016
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