I have been wanting to create a list of characteristics of leaders that suck at leadership. While i believe that everyone is a leader, not everyone is good at it. Leaders who suck at leadership are the ones who are:
S: Self-Centred – Have you ever met leaders whose sole purpose in life seems to be self-preservation? Behind every of their moves and decisions, is the broadcast radio station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). Does this protect me from my political enemies? Will my boss notice this project? Does this advance my career? Are my people supporting me?
Don’t get me wrong. I think everyone needs to be wise and prudent about self interests. But when a leader’s overarching intention is to place himself over the good of his team all the time, it’s time for some serious self-reflection.
U: Unclear – Great leaders have clear vision, goals, strategies and plans. Conversely leaders that suck are terribly unclear about where they are going and therefore they are not able to be clear in their communication to their team. When asked of their vision for the team they will either throw the question back to the team (citing empowerment), give a vague answer that nobody understands or divert the question to urgent tasks at hand. For a leader that sucks, the Urgents always reign over the Importants and as a result, nobody knows where the team is going.
C: Control Freaks – Great leaders empower and develop others. They allow mistakes as a form of learning and recognize that failures are but feedback to the path of success. Leaders that suck are controlling. It could be out of their desire for perfection, their lack of trust in their people, or simply a ravenous need to know what their people are doing. The bottomline is that while they may say they are not micro-managers, they usually are all the time.
K: Kiss Up and Kick Down – This characteristic is highly correlated to the first one (Self-centred). Leaders that suck often display different personas to their bosses, peers and subordinates. I believe great leaders adopt “different strokes for different folks”, they adapt their approaches to people with different personalities and needs. However leaders who suck seem to take this to a whole new level. They usually are terribly demure and obedient before their bosses and reveals their true self when they are facing their team. If they exhibits this characteristic, chances are they are the same ones who are avoiding to complete that 360 degrees assessment.
Finally on a more sober note, i think leaders who are given a formal authority over people need to take their responsibilities and trust given to them seriously. People that are being led by them are literally entrusting their lives in them and every day could be made better or worse simply through the leaders’ actions and decision. Furthermore what people go through in their office are often and almost always brought home. Leaders, what you do has tremendous impact on lives. Don’t be a leader that suck.