How Not To Be A LeaderWe are going to focus on 10 things that are guaranteed to show how not to be a leader. In 30 years of leadership I have seen and done many things which demonstrate well how not to be a leader.

‘Leadership’ can most simply be defined as ‘the capacity to influence’. These 10 things, if left unchecked, will totally undermine your influence. If you want to know how not to be a leader, here are 10 things I have learned….

How not to be a leader:

  1. Failing to Keep Your Word – If you become known as a person who cannot be trusted to keep your promises then you will struggle to develop trust in people. And without trust you cannot build the relationships required to develop a productive team. Your influence will only grow to the level that you can be trusted. Excuses and good intentions may cover you for a brief period but if it is your regular habit to over-promise and under-deliver, you will never have significant influence. You must work hard to be true to your word, even at your cost.
  2. Being Someone You Are Not – Some people are only looking to promote themselves. They stretch the truth. They talk up who they know and what they have done. A careful review of their past achievements will not match their talk. I have found such people usually are quite insecure. They talk a lot; mostly about themselves and what they have supposedly done. Such people may deceive naive people for a short time, but more discerning people are rarely impressed.
  3. Being Critical of Others – I have found that someone who is quick to criticise others to me, will in time be critical of me to others. They seem to delight in picking fault with others. For some reason they think sharing their criticisms is a way of conducting conversation to build relationship. Being critical has never increased anyone’s influence. At least not in a positive way. I find it best to either move away or say, “I really do not need to hear this”.
  4. Negativity – Some people have a negative view of the world. They seem to always be thinking negative thoughts and speaking negative words. They build relationships with negative people complaining about everything from the weather, the government to their wife or boss. Such people may gather a few negative friends, but they never gain any positive influence.
  5. Inconsistent Moods – Do you know someone who is quite variable in their moods? You never quite know which mood they will be in on any given day. Such people can be inward and reflective; they can be happy, occasionally; or they can be angry for seemingly no reason. They seem to think that whatever is going on for them internally can be spewed out onto people around them. Such people never gain influence. They burn out relationships and have people around them walking on egg shells in apprehension.
  6. Forgetting names – The sweetest sound anyone can hear is their own name. When you remember a person’s name it is a sign of respect. It is a gift you give them for which they will remember you and give you credit. When you regularly forget a person’s name it is a sign of disrespect. If you want to kill your capacity to influence someone, forget their name, more than once.How Not To Be A Leader
  7. Inability to Listen – As a leader it is vital that you learn to listen. It is important to listen in conversations one on one with people, and to listen in a broader sense to the mood and issues that people care about and for which they look to you for leadership. If you are only interested in your own agenda, and have poor listening skills you will kill any influence you have very quickly.
  8. Poor Social Skills – Nothing kills influence quicker than inappropriate behaviour socially. This might include: to be too familiar with a person of the opposite sex; to speak rudely; to be abrupt and interrupt conversations; or to be unaware of body odour or even bad breath. These kinds of poor social skills will kill your influence.
  9. A Stingy Spirit – I know people who never offer to pay the bill when you have coffee or lunch. They seem to always have forgotten their wallet, or need to go to the toilet, and then they rarely say ‘Thank you’ either. Stinginess of spirit is not just about money. It also includes an attitude that is looking for a freebee, rather than seeking to add value to everyone they meet. Stinginess kills influence!
  10. Not Being Genuine – There are several ways to tell if a person is not authentic. These are the people who while talking to you are looking over your shoulder and around the room to see if there is anyone better to connect with. Or they will take phone calls while meeting with you. Non-genuine people are users. They do not respect others. And they do not usually earn respect from others. So, they  burn through relationships. A good authenticity test is to check: ‘If the people closest to you like you the least, you not only have a problem, you ARE the problem’.

How Not To Be A Leader

These are 10 things I have learned about how not to be a leader. If left unchecked these attributes will kill your influence. Any one with even some of these attributes will struggle to successfully lead people.

All of these things are in the realm of what I call Self-Leadership. They prove the old adage that the first person you must learn to lead is yourself. And if you cannot lead yourself well then then you will never be able to successfully lead others.

A Positive Challenge: Sometimes we are good at seeing others faults but blind to our own. I know I have been. If you are serious about growing to be a leader then I suggest you ask a trusted friend or mentor to tell you if you have any of these or any other attributes that are killing your leadership influence.

Are there any other things that you would add to this list? I’d love to hear your comments.


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