Do Bad Leaders Create Stress? Are You One of Them?

Have you had your CEO name on the door for ages? Or do you have the ambition to be a CEO and hope to get on that track soon?

All of us are inundated with tips on how to be good leaders, but what are the pitfalls that might hinder your path to the top? Everyone with leadership ambition is on a learning track and leadership skills aren’t always natural, but most can be learned. However, some of us have habits that are risking our succession path and they can be unlearned, just by becoming more aware of yourself and seeking honest feedback from others. Here’s your checklist for what NOT to do as a leader, to diffuse stress, not create it. Recognise these in yourself and become a better leader instantly.

  1. Not listening

Everyone wants to feel heard, whether you are just coming onto the work ladder or already at the top. That doesn’t mean that every idea you have should be shared or every thought you have will be acted upon. Good leaders find time to listen fully and without distraction. Do you listen fully without interrupting and then ask insightful questions about what you heard? If you don’t, people eventually won’t want to follow you.

  1. Not showing up

Countless leadership studies tell us that exemplary leaders show they have uncertain moments and flaws. To be an authentic leader you must show some of your real self, what you are working on to improve and how important this is for all of us to practice. You can keep professional boundaries but show that you, too, are a real and fallible person, just like everybody else.

  1. You lack empathy

We all know business leaders that got to the top of their game by rolling over others. Is that what you want your legacy to be? In 2022 most of us don’t; we want the balance between achieving goals and caring about others. These are two qualities to be admired and if you show you have a balance between them your tribe will be behind you.

  1. You are inflexible and fear change

We live with change, perhaps too much change in our daily lives and we all seek some sense of stability. However, if your team feel you are inflexible, they won’t bring new ideas, innovation or positive change to you, and the pack will start to seek others who are more open to change than you are.

  1. You practice avoidance behaviour

We all know that lovely, sweet, kind person who avoids unpleasant or tough topics. Those are not the ones that end up being leaders. Being nice and kind does not mean being weak. Strong leaders have the strength of character to face problems, calculate risk, deal with problems head-on and face the tough stuff. If tough decisions are dealt with using a high dose of empathy with others, you will be a leader who others want to follow because you’ll be getting results and we all want to be on a winning team.

  1. You keep your cards close to your chest

Some people are natural communicators and have the innate instinct to know what information they must share, shouldn’t share or when to share vital information. Others have no malintent but get on with the job without communicating to others what is happening. Get some input from your colleagues to find out which communications camp you’re in. Remind yourself to communicate to your team with more info and more often. People don’t like to be kept in the dark and feel more connected to the team when they are part of the discussion and are kept abreast of developments along the way. Ask yourself now – does my team know what they need to know? Do they know enough to stay connected? What are the key inflexion points are in our work? Have I shared them? And ask THEM through a non-confrontational exercise if they need information.

  1. It’s all about YOU

Remember that time in your early career when you did all the work for the report, or the presentation and the boss’s name was the only one on it? Remember how you felt when you saw the ‘thank you’ emails they got and you were copied on, knowing it was you who did all the work? That person did not encourage you to follow them as a leader, but you can learn from how they handled that. When you share the credit, show humility, let others shine by being recognised, you’re not only prepping the leaders of tomorrow but you’re showing your authentic self, your empathy and your evident leadership qualities by leading a team, not just being the head of a team.

  1. You talk about work-life balance but don’t practice it

So many leaders know that in our new normal of working out of the office more often, no distinct work-time shutdowns, and 24-hour days, we’re feeding burnout and its right around the corner for many people. Knowing this is one thing but being a role model to guard against it is another. If you’re the leader you should be, also be the role model that shows they are not online, on-call and on-work all the time. The new, successful renaissance leader has lots of interests in and out of the workplace and lets their staff know it, encouraging them to do the same.

  1. How to get feedback?

My ‘More of/Less of’ tool is a great way to get straight but candid feedback and costs you nothing but your time. Ask each of your staff to write a ‘More of’ and ‘Less of’ paragraph for you. You may choose to do it for them at the same time. You’re likely to get some great honest feedback that will propel you on your leadership path. You’ll also get that residual benefit of them feeling heard and wanting to follow an inspirational leader – you.

Jill Bausch is the former CEO of Futures Group Europe, a coach, philanthropic strategist, facilitator, social impact advisor and author of Why Brave Women Win.

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