Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a supervisor, or just the director of a team within your organization, your leadership abilities will ultimately dictate your professional success or failure. As a successful leader, you can chart a course to an ultimate goal and inspire your team to work hard and achieve that goal, but if you slip up, you could compromise your team’s direction and end up missing the mark.
All too often, bad habits get in the way of effective leadership. We succumb to the effects of our routines, and lose ground as examples for our workforce. These are some of the worst habits that can compromise your ability to lead:
1. Isolating yourself.
There are many ways to isolate yourself as a leader, and none of them are good. You can physically isolate yourself by claiming an office far away from your team, mentally isolate yourself by focusing on separate work, or emotionally isolate yourself by not making yourself approachable.
In any case, isolating yourself does two kinds of damage: first, it influences resentment. If you isolate yourself from your workers, they will grow to adopt an “us versus them” mentality that illustrates you as an outsider, rather than being a part of the team, and stifles communication. Second, it distances you from the work that’s actually being done, which can interfere with your ability to oversee the work or make assessments based on the situation.
2. Setting firm direction.
Setting direction is good; it’s what good leaders do. But setting too firm a direction can damage your credibility and capacity to lead. Too often, leaders get wrapped up in the idea that they are responsible for the outcome of events, and in an effort to seize control, they create strict plans for their teams to execute.
If you set a plan without listening to your team, you could miss out on key insights that might otherwise lead you to better solutions. It could also breed resentment or demotivation in your workers, which could lead to less productivity and fewer new ideas. Similarly, if you set a plan’s direction too firm, you lose the chance to adapt the plan once you’re in the thick of things. Flexibility is always important in today’s rapidly changing market.
3. Focusing on day-to-day tasks.
There are two ways leaders focus too much on day-to-day tasks; the first is personal, and the second is as a supervisor. Personally, if you spend all your time worrying about micro-tasks, you’ll never have the chance to think high-level about the problems and goals you’re facing as a group. As a result, you’ll never gain the opportunity to reflect, change, or even set the direction for your initiatives. Delegate some of your responsibilities if you are truly overwhelmed.
As a supervisor, focusing too close on the daily activities of your workers is also problematic. It makes you a micromanager, and can irritate or disrupt your employees’ natural workflows. Find people for your team who you can trust to get the job done — then trust them to do it, however they choose.
4. Making excuses.
In a leadership position, you rarely have the chance or inclination to make excuses for small indiscretions, but when you see the end results of your campaign or face a recurring issue you just can’t shake, it’s easy to find ways to rationalize what has happened.
Making excuses is not the same as finding a root cause; tracking down the true source of a problem and eliminating it is what you should strive to do. Instead, making excuses is a form of lazy problem solving; you attribute the outcome of an event to a (typically) uncontrollable factor, and flippantly remove the need to investigate the matter further.
5. Working too hard.
Too many leaders bear the weight of their teams by working long hours, skipping breaks, and staying up long into the night. While it may help you meet a tight deadline or catch you up on work in the short-term, eventually it will destroy your abilities as a leader.
Sleep deprivation alone can wear down your focus, concentration, and even your physical health. Skipping breaks robs you of the opportunity to decompress and relieve stress, and makes you more irritable and less productive. Take time to slow down, and you and your team will be better for it.
If you start exhibiting any of these bad habits, work to get rid of them as soon as possible. Course correcting through sheer force of will can replace your negative habits with positive ones and regain your aptitude as a leader in your organization. Your workers will follow your example, and become more efficient and productive in their own rights, and together, you’ll have an easier time setting and achieving your goals.
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