Are you a Bad Leader?

Welcome to another year full of possibilities! As we start 2011, why not pause for a professional retrospective. Perhaps you’ve already summarized your successes for your annual performance review. Let me help you reach further than the proverbial pat-on-the-back – although you likely deserve that too.  How about asking yourself a tougher question, such as “Am I a bad leader?”

The first step in any personal growth program is to become aware of what isn’t working anymore. You need to pause, stand back, reflect on the more painful aspects of your leadership – and then have the courage to accept what is there. As our workplaces become more complex, interconnected and dynamic , it becomes easier for leaders to blame the culture, or something else in the system, for their ineffectiveness. It’s like we have forgotten that leaders institutionalize culture – in other words they create it, they just don’t show up in it. So, just to shake it up a little, let me offer you some clues to help you decide whether or not you are a bad leader.

You are a bad leader if

  • You think talking about a change is the same thing as implementing it.
  • You believe that people who don’t support you probably just don’t get it.
  • Your best trait is your critical mind and your ability to point out what everyone is doing wrong.
  • You focus on the poor performers and the stars on your team, but forget everyone else.
  • You have no impact or influence outside of your immediate role.
  • You blame the organization’s culture for your inability to make progress.
  • Talented people keep leaving your team, and it always comes as a surprise to you.
  • Your staff can’t survive more than a day without you.
  • Your team agrees with everything you say and everything you do.
  • You wish everyone had your commitment, drive and passion.

And, you are a bad leader if no one is following you.

Now, I don’t know why your leadership isn’t working for you. But let me give you a short checklist of good leadership traits. These are possible areas of growth for you in 2011.

Good leaders:

  1. Learn about their impact on others by asking for feedback often and from many.
  2. Pay attention to what motivates and excites others, and tailor recognition and rewards to each person.
  3. When faced with a poor performer, dig to find out if it is an inability to perform or a lack of desire to perform (or a combination) and support accordingly.
  4. Don’t let poor performance – or good performance – go unnoticed. They make a point of knowing who is contributing what, and they stay connected to those who depend on them.
  5. Create strong peer networks and relationships with those who have power and influence where they do not directly have it themselves – and then they speak to these people when they need support.
  6. Model the change they wish to see in the organization, because they have integrity and because they know that actions speak louder than words.  
  7. Know the difference between being “liked” and being respected and they make unpopular choices when it is the right thing to do.
  8. Understand reciprocity theory and give to others what they would like to receive.
  9. Know the difference between delegation and dumping. They guide people on new tasks without micromanaging or yanking it back at the first sign of trouble.
  10. Create more leaders by sharing information and letting others go to meetings, sit on committees and take over tasks that shape the organization and the business.

Perhaps something in this list rings for you. Avoid using it to point at the faults of others. Give yourself credit for the great work you did in 2010 – and resolve to become a better leader in 2011.