In leadership, everything you do counts. All eyes are on you, even when you aren't there. Employees feel your presence throughout the day because you set the tone.

This is what it means to be a leader--to be aware of  how your actions and decisions impact others even when you are physically absent. 

I believe the telltale sign of a great leader is one who subjugates his own agenda for the greater good of the organization. When a leader allows a personal agenda to dictate decisions, she is no longer upholding her ethical responsibility.

All leadership is contagious. If you encourage collaboration, trust, and honesty, this will manifest in your organization. If you encourage mistrust, anxiety, and fear, this will manifest. 

The good news is that we can change. Gary Vaynerchuk admits he can be a bit overzealous with his feedback. He's taken steps to temper the way he delivers bad news to his teams. 

If you are building an organization, or plan to, check yourself against these harmful leadership behaviors. Not only will you be a happier leader, your employees will thank you for it, and show their gratitude by going the extra mile for you. A kind, considerate leader makes for a happy company. 

  1.  Taking your employees for granted. Always remember they have a choice. Always remember your vision is empty without great employees behind it. A leader can never say thank you too often.
  2. Ignoring the processes your team has worked so hard to establish. Respect the company by following the processes that your employees implemented to make your organization as efficient, productive, profitable, and positive as possible. 
  3. Playing favorites. Keep in mind that everyone in your organization is essential to fulfilling the mission. Employees watch your interactions with others. Everything counts.
  4. Leading with emotion. Impetuous, rash decisions are rarely well received. No whining, complaining, or temper tantrums allowed--especially from the owner.
  5. Hoarding the decision-making process and refusing to delegate. Trust your people. That's why you have them. Empower them to make decisions, take action, and elevate their skill set.  
  6. Having your mind made up before listening to input. Few things are as demoralizing as knowing no one will take your opinion into consideration. One of the greatest gifts about owning a company is to be surrounded by super-intelligent people who can teach you a lot. They see things in your company that you will never see. Be a feedback sponge.
  7. Interrupting. Your employees are busy, so respect their time. If you need to see them, schedule time with them. Your needs do not necessarily take precedence over their immediate priorities.
  8. Assuming employees are in the loop--or not caring if they are. Just because you have your finger on the pulse of everything going on doesn't mean others do. In most organizations, employees are head down focusing on their responsibilities. Make an effort to loop everyone into what's happening across the company so staff members feel connected to one another. 
  9. Being a hypocrite. What applies to you applies to your employees. For example, if you have a flexible scheduling policy, it's not in place just to benefit you. It's there to accommodate others as well.
  10. Forcing new-hire decisions without employee input and expecting staff to blindly embrace them. Want people to work well together? Give them input into new hires. Forcing new hires without any buy-in is a shortcut to personnel problems. This applies to every position, from an intern to an executive. The fact that your friend's cousin's daughter is graduating and doesn't have a job is irrelevant. You're running a company, and every employee is depending on everyone else to deliver.
  11. Telling them you support innovation but then penalizing them for trial and error. Innovation is a nice buzzword. Many companies say they support it, but do their cultures allow for failure? Failure is the flip side of innovation. Progress doesn't occur without risk; innovation doesn't happen without mistakes. How well does your culture embrace trial and error?
  12. "Empowering" them without clearly established processes to follow. To empower doesn't mean letting employees do what they want to do, and then penalizing them for making mistakes. It means giving them the freedom to make decisions and take action after they've received clear direction.

For example, our HR generalist at Information Experts wanted to switch benefits partners. Our previous partner did not give her the support she personally needed. I empowered her to make the change with the understanding that she was fully responsible for the success of the new relationship.

Effective leaders know that the most important part of their organization is their people. They know that the only purpose the ego serves is to bring us back to our feet when we've been knocked to the ground. 

The more self-awareness you have about the impact of your actions, and the more you take responsibility for your behaviors, the stronger your organization will be. Best of luck with your self-reflection!