A bad leader sticks out like a sore thumb, throbbing red from all the yelling and trying to get people to cooperate. From a distance, it looks like someone trying to herd elephants with a fly swatter. Don't be that person. These common leadership mistakes are the ones that can cause the most frustration when trying to direct a team. There's a way to overcome them, lead with more success, and motivate people to get things done.
The louder your voice, the more people will listen, right? Not in the modern work climate. Employees might respond initially to yelling and even work harder after a tyrannical meltdown of epic proportions in order to make sure it doesn't happen again. The long-term impact is that yelling puts people on edge--they don't feel respected and valued, and they eventually lose motivation and interest. The answer is to stay calm, relay company goals clearly, and find better ways to communicate. Yelling is a sign of frustration over communication snafus, but look in the mirror. You might be the one communicating poorly.
2. Ruling with an iron fist
When a bad leader walks into the room, people cower in dread. Why? One of the reasons has to do with human nature. We all want to be part of the solution and feel respected for what we do, but if the boss insists on being right about every topic, it kills productivity. No one knows what to do when the boss isn't around, because he is the only one who has the right answers. The answer is to honor the opinions of employees. Rule with a softer touch that shows you respect alternative views and want everyone to excel.
3. Not explaining yourself
"Just do what I say" is a phrase that comes out of the lips of bad leaders. They expect people to respond because, well, you're the boss and you get paid the big bucks. It doesn't work like that. Explaining the why behind every single major directive will take extra time, but it's worth the effort because people will own the idea as much as you do. The good news is that, if you gain a reputation for explaining the why, people will eventually respond positively even if you don't always take that step. They will trust there is a legitimate reason.
4. Talking constantly
I've noticed bad business leaders who have this way of talking as though the peons working for them are there only to receive information. You're not giving a TED talk. It's often a good leadership practice to pause and see if an employee has feedback for you and understands what you are asking about. Be clear about a directive to the team, explain the why, and then wait to make sure everyone understands the goals you've set forth.
5. Always insisting you are right
It's funny how so-so leaders combine a deadly three things to become a truly terrible leader: They rule with an iron fist, they rarely explain any of the objectives, and they talk constantly without listening for feedback. What does that really mean? The boss is basically saying she is the only one on the team who has the right to an opinion. I know a few well-respected leaders, and the one trait they always have is an ability to admit mistakes. They have an openness to opposing viewpoints and, in fact, will actively look for better approaches.
The one trait all horrendous leaders share is a domineering, aggressive attitude. Forget the bull in the china shop--these leaders crash their way through every meeting no matter where it's held. They trample people, and they seem to enjoy it. The problem with the bullying boss is that the person is blind to what is really happening in the workplace. By charging ahead, he or she loses sight of what employees need and the projects that really matter. Don't charge at employees. Having an attitude of mutual responsibility means everyone is charging at a goal together. And guess what? That means you might reach it.
It's almost the opposite of bullying, but it's just as ineffective. Cajoling employees (i.e., using persuasive tactics) is a poor leadership approach because it's more about getting what you want and tricking people into listening to you. It's sleight of hand. Employees might be deceived for a while into thinking they are following you, but they'll eventually figure it out. A better strategy is to explain rather than cajole. Employees will see logic and good reasoning and choose to respond.
I've seen leaders in business who tell half-truths as a way to get people to do what they say. It rarely works. I'm all for incentives and rewards, because it's a way to share in the glory as a team and promote good thinking, but promising an outcome that you know will never happen or lying about a possible reward for good work builds distrust in the long run. My answer? Be brutally honest. Explain exactly how things will pan out on a project if the team works together. Maybe it's not quite as motivating, but at least it will match up with the eventual reality (which is much more of an incentive anyway than fake rewards).
9. Discouraging creativity
One of the most common leadership mistakes is to think you are the only one who has the ingenuity. It's the trait that probably got you into the role you are in and maybe even helped you start the company. It's easy to get hyperfocused on your creativity but forget that others can come up with brilliant ideas on their own. Reward that. Be confident with your leadership to the point at which you can let others have the great ideas.
10. Turning a blind eye
Having an attitude that ignores problems in a company is not a good leadership practice. It's an easy mistake, though. As a leader, you might want to let things slide and focus on the big issues. What tends to happen in the workplace is that the leader is positioned only to deal with major issues, but my advice is to get involved in the details. Stoop to the level of day-to-day conflict and get involved--resolve the minor issues and the major.