Leaders behaving badly


By Ian Sampson

In a recent Forbes article some learned authors distilled seven unproductive behaviours of unsuccessful leaders. They were:

Habit # 1: They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment
Habit #2: They identify so completely with the company that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests
Habit #3: They think they have all the answers
Habit #4: They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them
Habit #5: They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image
Habit #6: They underestimate obstacles
Habit #7: They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past

These attitudes and behaviours create poor organisational performance and contribute to the often dreadful working environments that seem to be increasingly the norm in organisations now.

Corporate advisors routinely challenge their clients to examine this article and advise them to clean up their act if the habits are theirs or to work out their exit strategy if their bosses won’t change. Both of these worthy pieces of advice call for “change”.

I find something appealing about changing to improve but I am often also perturbed by mere “change”. There is an old saying that the more things change the more they stay the same. So, I have spent a bit of time recently thinking and practising how leaders can transform rather than just change their behaviours. My assertion is that for leaders to transform to be fully capable and confident in their own skin they need to be continuously testing themselves across a wide range of behaviours and mindsets.

Leaders seeking to improve or address shortcomings will test themselves against the seven habits listed above and make appropriate “change”. As they do that and they see the beneficial results in:

  • their own lives,
  • those of the people they seek to influence for good and
  • the performance of their organisation.

They will be able to springboard into new areas for examination. It is this journey that is truly transformational.

A couple of years ago I developed my own list, which I called examples of “Misleading Conduct”

  1. Not providing context for your people
  2. Not providing space for your people
  3. Justifying poor performance
  4. Making lousy decisions or no decisions
  5. Lacking integrity in your personal and professional life
  6. Misconducting yourself
  7. Running the business by the numbers alone (a.k.a. “earnings per share uber alles.”)
  8. Micromanage your people
  9. Make meetings and interpersonal interactions unproductive for yourself and your people
  10. Make day to day management a misery for people
  11. Be flaky on safety
  12. Apply organisational discipline sloppily and/or inconsistently
  13. Control your schedule and create chaos with all your people’s schedules
  14. Play favourites
  15. Be contemptuous of your functional people
  16. Be emotionally dysfunctional; have an unworkable home life
  17. Be schizophrenic about performance
  18. Avoid interacting with the real people in the business
  19. When times get tough, lock yourself away from your people
  20. Breach your own values when it suits you; always hold others to account for their values
  21. Whatever else you do, don’t show care

In future posts we will explore some of these misleading conducts in more detail.

In the meantime, if you are motivated to work with capable advisers to transform your leadership, please talk to us further.

About the author:  Ian Sampson is a Cause and Effective Associate. He is a Strategic Advisor to Boards and an Executive Coach.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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