I’m not typically focused on the negative aspects related to human behavior and leadership attributes. However, I was reminded of this topic by someone who I’ll call my muse. I was surprised they brought this topic up, but since they did, I wanted to dive into it. Especially since over the last several decades some of the unacceptable habits and behaviors have either become tolerable, or people have become numb to their prevalence.
Although there are numerous less than desirable habits and behaviors that exist, I’m going to focus on some of the ones which in my opinion contribute to the demise of a leader, or the team they lead. The first habit is being self-absorbed. Or expressed in a politically correct way of calling this out, suggesting the leader is highly unaware of who they are, and how their interactions with those they lead are not positively contributing to the health of the team or organization they lead. Many of us have experienced this type of leader, yet the real challenge is, who can alter this behavior?
Ultimately a person’s behavior must be changed by them. Of course, they must first recognize their behavior is having a negative impact on those they lead, but often they are seemingly blind to this. Is it possible for them to understand or recognize this? It is, but unfortunately there will be a fair number of professional casualties involved before they do. Perhaps you have heard the expression “the last straw”? This will often be what contributes to the “tipping point” of redirecting the leader to be either reluctantly redirected or become aware they need to behave differently. This generally happens when they realize there isn’t anyone else they can point the finger towards contributing to the toxic environment they have created and found themselves in the middle of.
An inflated ego and putting yourself first in all circumstances is another behavior which left unchecked, will also contribute to the demise of a leader and their organization. There are several paths they could have taken to arrive at this point, and one of them is because others are afraid of confronting them. This of course doesn’t serve anyone well. The surprising thing is that when someone finally does confront this type of negative leadership behavior, the leader is often confused about who you are talking about. Or, they will become immediately defensive, which is more typical. Contending with either of these responses successfully will depend on the leader’s ability to be open minded enough to listen to what you must share with them. As challenging as this sounds, they must also appreciate you have their best interest in mind when you are having this conversation with them.
Another unacceptable habit is continuously interrupting someone. Yes, I get it. Sometimes the leader is really excited about what they have to say, but the bottom line, is that this is rude behavior. It also suggests what they have to say is more important than what you are communicating. When you continuously experience interacting with a person who behaves this way, it’s easy to shut down on them, and not want to interact with them. It can also be exhausting, and you get the sense they are not truly listening. My experience with this type of leader is that either they are unaware of the fact they are doing this, don’t care, or think they have the right to behave this way because of their title. They don’t.
One of the other unacceptable behavior areas I have noticed falls under the category of communication. What appears to seemingly become an acceptable practice, is that I have experienced leaders choosing to either use words which are offensive, derogatory or “dumbed-down expressions” (e.g., continuously using swears or slang words when there are plenty of other more impactful and intelligent words to choose from). What a leader may not be aware of when their communication “style” falls short of being professional, is that they are directly contributing towards degrading the respect from those they are leading and earned at one point. When you hear another person speaking disparagingly about another person, especially when they are a leader, it causes you to pause and consider whether perhaps you have been a recipient of this behavior too?
The final unacceptable habit or behavior which can contribute to a leader’s demise, and a toxic environment is being less than generous. Less than generous with praise, your time, your mentoring ability and focusing more on the performance metrics than the health and well-being of those you are leading. Sure, not all leader’s emotional intelligence or empathy levels may be where they should be, but both areas can be either off set by others on their team, or the leader recognizing these are not strong attributes of theirs. In fact, they can verbally let others know this, and not as an excuse, but to convey they are aware of their tendencies. However, these tendencies shouldn’t be the overruling factor in terms of giving them a pass for being this way and that it is acceptable. It’s not, and they need to understand and appreciate this, and recognize the others on their team who excel in these areas.
The list of unacceptable habits behaviors can sometimes seem as if they are overtaking the positive ones that we would all rather be experiencing and focused on. However, if you are either realizing you might have some of these habits or behaviors, or know someone who does, I have some suggestions for you to consider.
- If the team you are leading is struggling in any way, could you be contributing to why this is occurring? Perhaps it’s time to think this is a possibility.
- Do you routinely think about what more you can be doing to help the people you are leading? Or are you more concerned about the optics in terms of how others are perceiving you?
- When was the last time you paused to think about whether it might be time to overhaul or work on strengthening any of your leadership qualities? Hint. The next step is to come up with a plan to do so, and to execute on this plan.
- Being defensive never serves anyone well. Are you willing to understand what your triggers are to acting this way, and working towards decreasing this behavior? Perhaps having the goal of striking it from your interactive repertoire?
- Are there acceptable habits and behaviors you have which can help to offset your negative ones? This will factor in considering that you would be working towards addressing your negative ones, with the goal of eliminating them.
- If self-awareness isn’t one of your current leadership abilities, can you commit to developing yourself in this area? It’s never too late to do so.
Sure, we would all prefer to be or have leaders and sports coaches who are guiding us who exhibit all the favorable traits and behavioral characteristics that appear to be “fairy-tale” like. However, there are achievable levels for leaders to strive towards and reach. Will you be one of these leaders or sports coaches?
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