One common trait that successful entrepreneurs possess is leadership ability. But just because you are suddenly launched into a leadership position doesn't mean that you should jump in. When I became a leader with my first startup, I was horrible. Nobody explained what I should be doing or told me some of the things I was doing were sabotaging the company I started.
So you can avoid them, here are 10 leadership traits that I found killed my company in a matter of months.
1. Lack of vision
Leaders who don't define a clear vision of the future will have a team that misses goals and targets all the time. Without vision, leaders will have a difficult time motivating and inspiring team members, which will affect both performance and the value of the brand. Whether it's a nonexistent vision, tunnel vision, or vision that constantly changes, a leader like this will not be able to provide achievable goals and steer the team in the right direction.
Instead of sitting back and watching, an effective leader keeps the team members informed about where they're going and how to get there. When I was working on my latest startup, Hostt, I had to explain every aspect of the company to every person involved. We all got on the same page and worked out everything before we started. We are now all on the same page about everything.
2. Failure to communicate
Poor communication skills won't get a leader very far with his or her team. If a leader can't articulate goals and objectives or ask questions, it will be challenging to know what's really going on with team members and the overall business.
Leaders should communicate across different mediums and environments. They should follow the 70-20-10 rule in conversations: 70 percent listening, 20 percent asking questions (along with some brand advocacy), and 10 percent tracking (summarizing and synthesizing information).
If you want to decrease morale and experience a high turnover, all you have to do is bully and intimidate employees. A leader who is constantly threatening to fire people over unsatisfactory work, berating them for their performance, or criticizing the personal traits of employees, creates a negative work environment.
Seriously, stop. You're killing your business with every threat you put out. Teach employees what's expected and if it doesn't happen, help them make it happen.
If you can't resist getting involved in every aspect of your employees' jobs, then you can expect team members to resent you for not giving them responsibility. Control freaks like that tend to be insecure and may even have a compulsive behavioral disorder that makes them refuse to accept personal responsibility and create scapegoats.
Effective leaders are able to give up control and empower their team. I find that the more I build leaders in my organization, the better a leader I become.
5. "No tolerance policy"
This doesn't mean that a leader ignores team members who aren't performing or have made a mistake. But the "no tolerance policy" is no longer an effective technique. Removing team members for failure isn't always the best practice. Amazing leaders teach their team members and help them learn from the failures.
6. Being a know-it-all
No one likes a know-it-all. Leaders who share their success stories or brag about their accomplishments illustrate to others that they are unwilling to learn and change. Instead, a leader should always be curious and not have to feel as though he or she is the smartest person in the room.
The Huffington Post has a nice piece on this topic, Twelve Tips to Avoid Seeming Like an Arrogant, Know-It-All Jerk.
7. Offering incentives
There's been a belief that if a leader offers team members money, vacations, or banquets, it will increase their productivity. Unfortunately, research (via the Harvard Business Review) has proven that "people who expect to receive a reward for completing a task or for doing that task successfully simply do not perform as well as those who expect no reward at all." Instead of incentives, offer team members meaningful feedback and respect.
8. Withholding helpful information
While a leader can't unveil everything, withholding helpful or useful information from team members isn't an effective technique. It creates distrust among team members, which will ultimately affect performance. Don't hesitate to share any information that team members could use to make them more proficient at their jobs. Sometimes you're going to have to trust your team.
9. Taking credit for others' work
How would you feel if someone took credit for something that he or she didn't deserve? A leader who takes credit for others' work is no better than a thief. Furthermore, failing to recognize the accomplishments of team members will make them feel that the leader only cares about himself or herself. A leader has to always give credit where credit is due.
10. Management by walking around the office
Back in the 1980s there was a management style "Management by Wandering Around" (MBWA). Some leaders still believe that this is an effective technique since they are making a little bit of contact with team members. Have you ever seen the movie Office Space? Don't be that guy.
Engage in conversations, watch, listen, and implement ideas with team members. Become part of the team and know you are there 24/7 to help them.
I really had to learn the hard way to become a leader. I messed up over and over and over. You will screw up. Don't sweat it. Learn from it and improve yourself over time. The more you learn from your mistakes and improve, the more you truly will become a leader.