There are dozens upon dozens of leadership techniques that entrepreneurs have used over the years to help motivate and inspire their team as well as steer their company to success.
However, not all leadership techniques are created equal and, in fact, some procedures or processes don't work at all. Often, leaders don't even realize that the techniques they thought were helping everyone progress and grow, were actually hurting the team and company as well as potentially discouraging top talent and causing them to leave.
Here are 12 leadership techniques to avoid:
1. Overly serious and stern: If a leader is too serious, they are not approachable nor do they create an enjoyable atmosphere for working. Instead, the team is nervous that the CEO will shout at them and the overall environment is uncomfortable. But uncomfortable isn't the worst of it.
Studies have shown that less work gets done, and people actually forget things when it's too tense at work. Instead, you having a sense of humor and knowing when to use it creates a relaxing and fun environment that actually boosts productivity.
2. Micromanagement: No one likes when they feel like someone is watching their every move as though they can't be trusted or are not capable to do the work. However, this is what many leaders do to their team. Even worse, they may jump in and simply take over rather than letting their talent figure it out and do their best.
It's important to take a step back and let the team figure things out for themselves because they will learn more, gain the confidence that can bring enlightened idea down the road, and your team will become more proactive in getting tasks done. Plus, if a leader is spending all their time checking up on everyone else, they are not achieving any of their own responsibilities.
3. Talking but not walking: Leaders often think they are there to tell everyone else what to do and how to act but they don't tend to follow their own orders. No one sees the point of following what has been said if they don't see the person giving those orders doing the same thing.
A leader cannot act as though they are above everyone else, but they should be the example that everyone else follows. By serving as the model for what is being asked of others, the team better understands what is expected and as a result will be more inclined to follow what's being asked of them.
4. Talking but not listening: Some leaders also feel that they are there to give instructions but that there is no point in listening to any feedback of what anyone in a lower position has to say. This is a big mistake because it frustrates the team, lowers morale, and potentially misses out on some great ideas.
If a leader actively listens, then the team feels valued and believes their CEO or president really does care about them. Once they feel valued, the team more often wants to work much harder without being told to do so.
5. Tasks versus individuals: It's easy to understand why a leader would get caught up in the idea of tasks, especially when they are focused on strategic goals that those tasks represent. However, when it comes to getting the jobs done, it's really the individuals charged with those tasks that matter the most. The approach that will alienate the very talent that is charged with getting the job done is the approach that say to the employee, "you are nothing special. You are the job. You are here to work and only to work. You don't matter." This clearly indicates and makes them feel like a cog in a machine, not a unique asset on the team. This impersonal environment can then de-motivate the very people a leader needs to be working at their optimum productivity level. Instead, focus on praising, encouraging, and asking how the employee feels to keep those individuals focused and motivated so those strategic objectives can be achieved.
6. Too relaxed: While some leaders are too stern and strict, the opposite leadership technique of being too relaxed can be almost as bad. When the leadership is a goof-off slacker, or the standards are not enforced, there is not a framework that the team knows they can work within, and work essentially doesn't get done because no one is being gently pushed. This lackadaisically inspired environment leads to a leader not being respected and a culture where no one essentially sees the value in working hard.
It's important for a leader to find that middle ground where they create a comfortable work environment that combines working hard with a fun atmosphere that promotes creativity and productivity within a set of clear, enforced standards.
7. Sporadic communication: When a leader takes the tact that communication should be on a "need to know" basis, there may be times where there is no communication from the top down to the team, leaving them wondering what is going on with the company and leading them to draw their own conclusions. The lack of regular communications about expectations and company progress leaves the team to their own devices and doesn't help them stay on track with what they need to do to accomplish the strategic goals. The inconsistency also sends mixed messages about how the leader sees their team. Instead, be consistent and regular in communicating with the company, use multiple channels to engage with them.
8. Blame game: It's difficult to admire any leader who passes the buck onto someone else in the company or blames his team for critical mistakes or missed goals. A good leader takes responsibility for anything that goes wrong and sets the example for the rest of the team about accountability.
Your team will more likely respect a leader who is not afraid to take the brunt of any issue or problem that arises in the company and then uses it as a lesson to make better decisions in the future. Make mistakes about learning to fail fast and move on to solutions, don't fit into the blame and bash crowd.
9. Know-it all: No one likes a person who thinks they know everything. There is no humility or space to learn something new if a leader claims or acts as if they already know all there is to know. Bragging is not a behavior that will win over the hearts and minds of the team.
Instead, a leader who is open to learning and inquisitive will be able to go so much farther in terms of making the right decisions while also gaining the favor in the team's eyes.
10. Feedback as an afterthought: One of the worst things a leader can do is make a decision first and then ask for the team's opinion afterwards. This is sending the message that they don't have a part to play in making decisions that relate to their department or team's goals. It's a sign of weakness in a leader to think they have all the answers to everything that relates to the company.
By gathering feedback first from those closest to the customer or the ones most intimately involved in achieving certain goals, a leader can have more relevant information to make the high-level decisions.
11. Taking credit where credit's not due: Although a leader represents the company, it's a bad decision to take credit for someone else's work because it fails to recognize the team's accomplishments and sends the message that a leader doesn't care about them.
It's important to lift up and recognize those that have offered a great solution or a new idea - or especially if someone has done the essential work in the process. By showing off your pride in the accomplishments of your team, a leader will most likely continue to get the best outcome from them.
12. Incentivizing: While it may seem like a great leadership technique, incentives like money, vacations, and gifts, sometimes don't produce the results expected and end up costing the company more. Those employees that don't expect a reward have been found to perform much better than those that get used to incentives.
Rather than getting the team gifts, the better approach is to respect them, offer a good work-life balance, and provide plenty of opportunities for them to grow personally and professionally. An unexpected thank you gift, meal, invitation to go out for a drink, money or some other appreciation can go a long way. You just don't want your employees to expect compensation after every big project is completed.
It's easy to get caught up in the idea of being a leader but much harder to recognize the best techniques that inspire and motivate the team as well as recognizing the skills a leader needs to propel the company forward.
Avoiding the pitfalls and learning how these 12 leadership techniques can bring out the opposite of what you are going for as a leader can help you stay focused on those behaviors and actions that will get the most from your team and that will help build respect for the person filling the shoes at the top.