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I write ‘leaders’ in inverted commas because the characteristics we hate about bad leaders mean that by definition, they are not a true leader.

Have you ever found that you look to the person in charge and think, “How on Earth did they get that role?” This might be a community leader, the CEO of a business or an educator. They are people in leadership roles who we wonder how they got to be in that position and we struggle to respect them, let alone trust them. We could make sweeping generalizations here about politicians, but the issue is far broader and deeper throughout the community.

We have all heard of the Peter Principle – namely that people get promoted to the level of his or her incompetence. This may well give us an insight into why organizations can be bereft of leadership. But poor leaders are not just incompetent, they can be downright destructive. They are often driven by self-serving notions of his or her own importance.

They serve the ‘me’ not the ‘we’.

The irony is that we want to believe in our leaders, as I wrote some months ago in the post ‘What can we believe in.” But the reality is that no matter how much we talk about leadership and the need for development and training for people in leadership roles, we still see new leaders mirroring the behaviors of the leaders that went before them. The cycle needs to change.

Here are 10 traits that we hate the most about poor leadership:

You just can’t trust them – you don’t believe in what they say and they don’t do what they say they will
They think they know everything and are happy to tell anyone that they know it all.
They blame people or circumstances when things don’t go well
The don’t listen and talk over people
They are not present or focused – they think they have a ‘right’ to check their smart phone anytime, even in board meetings or presentations.
They put people down and attack the ‘man’ rather than reviewing the argument or actions.
They believe “It’s my way or the highway.” Never allowing others to contribute other ideas.
They are divisive and mean spirited – setting people against each other
They rarely show thanks or appreciation
They avoid doing the work and look for the easiest option.
How can you avoid such leaders?

What can you do about it if you find yourself with a leader that you not only don’t trust, but detest. You can vote with your feet and find yourself a new place to hang out, which means the problem stays and you go. So nothing really gets fixed. You could engage them in an authentic conversation about the impact of his or her behavior – maybe citing the ‘Emperors New Clothes’ as a reference. You could subtly leave a white paper like this one (Developing the Leader as Coach… by Anthony Grant and Margie Hartley) on their desk. But most of all, you must be a role model to others around you – no matter how hard it is.

What to do to lead by example.

Do what you say you are going to do – always.
Acknowledge authentically what you don’t know.
Be accountable and take responsibility.
Listen deeply and wait for people to finish when they are speaking.
Be present always in the company of others.
Know that all people are equal and have a contribution to make.
Create an environment where everyone can contribute.
Always talk as a team, act as a coach.
Have a deep sense of appreciation – and thank people regularly.
Lead by example, do the work, persist, and encourage others
I continue to see people who claim to be leaders but are not. To be a leader is to have followers. Not every leader has the same style… but without respect and trust they are no leader at all.

And remember “As the leadership team goes so goes the rest of the organization”.

Image courtesy of Fox This article first appeared as part of my LinkedIn collection

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