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The Traps of Bad Leadership

We did a training this week on the traps of bad leadership.  In part, we talked about the traps that we can fall into when we lack self-awareness.  You may think that self-awareness sounds pretty fluffy, that mindfulness is all very nice but what does it have to do with my job?  In fact, self-awareness is intensely practical and can help us establish and maintain easy, peaceful working environments.

There are four major pitfalls that we can run into:

  1. Micro-managing

  2. Lack of consistency

  3. Denial

  4. Ego

Micro-managing is, simply, telling everyone how to do each little thing, instead of allowing them to execute their assigned task. Micro-managing is fear-based.  We might be afraid that if the team’s assignments aren’t done perfectly then we as the manager or leader might be in trouble. While that may be true, the answer is not to hover over everyone’s shoulders. We have to give our teams the tools they need to get the job done, and then TRUST them to do it. The self-awareness piece here is to know what is pushing us towards micro-managing our team.  What are we afraid of?  Why don’t we trust our team? If we can answer those questions we can usually solve the real problem at its root.

No one wants a Jekyll and Hyde boss. Chris Hallberg, author of "The Business Sergeant's Field Manual" says that "clear and consistent leadership and management simplifies the work environment. This gives staff members the chance to focus on the work that needs to be done — rather than the politics of navigating a tricky business relationship.” You don’t want your people having to waste energy worrying about which version of you is going to show up today.  Consistency applies to how we treat others, as well as our mood and tone of voice. Of course, everyone has bad days, but we need to be sure we don’t take them out on those around us. We have to be non-judgemental observers of ourselves, so that we can be mindful and intentional about our actions, to ensure that we are showing up consistently.

Not being aware that there is a problem, makes it really hard to solve the problem.  Further, lack of self-awareness can lead us to miss the fact that our behavior is actually contributing to the problem. Being in denial can make you feel like you’re being attacked when you receive negative feedback, because it appears to come out of nowhere.

Which leads us to our fourth trap. Ego worries what will people think of me? Ego says I got this; I don’t need any help.  Ego whines that no one ever listens. Essentially, ego puts self over the team. It’s easy to see how that can be detrimental to accomplishing goals when someone else is doing it.  Much harder to get out of our own way. It is really important to be able to ask if it’s ego that driving a decision (will this make ME look better?) or if it’s really the best for the team as a whole.

Without being immensely self-aware, we stand almost no chance of sustained success in relationships with people or achieving company goals.  The good news is that self-awareness is a learnable skill that can actually lead to more personal freedom and flexibility, and more success and effectiveness in all areas of our lives. 

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