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9 Deadly Diseases of Ineffective Leadership

1. The King Complex: This habit is very common. The boss tells people what to do without input or collaboration or involvement. Communication is mostly one way. The employee feels powerless and not part of the company. When mistakes happen the boss yells and expects this to improve performance.

The Cure: Instead of telling and yelling, the leader should involve people in decisions and seek feedback from the people affected by the decision.

2. Cotton Mouth Syndrome: Talking to the people that you lead is paramount to effective leadership. Unfortunately, it is easy to develop poor communication habits and develop Cotton Mouth Syndrome. How you speak is as important as the content you convey, and the manner in which you convey it. So your body language plays an important role in your ability to communicate effectively.

When you don't communicate information to employees the rumor mill turns on and creates a less than optimum environment. Leading is not a one way street. If information and communication is only flowing one way, then you are missing 50% of the opportunities to better manage your department, division, or company.

The Cure: Your role, as leader, is to ensure free-flowing information. Open up the channels of communication and place value on transparency. Not only does this make people feel valued and important, it also builds trust.

3. Amateur Psychologist: For some reason, when someone is endowed with a leadership role they become an Amateur Psychologist. Since we were kids our parents made promises to us like giving you ice cream if you eat your vegetables. They believed that by offering ice cream we would suddenly change. All sorts of rewards were offered as we grew up with the thought that we could be molded and changed by dangling a reward in front of us. Unfortunately, when we get into leadership we act like a parent, treating our employees like our children. We scold and punish. We reward and praise. None of these things actually change people. At most, you get temporary compliance.

The Cure: As a leader, stop trying to change people and start changing the environment to a place where people can thrive. Creating an environment for change to happen is one of your primary responsibilities. The environment includes the culture, the policies people live by, creating a sense of family, celebrations, company gatherings, and more. There are too many types of people and personalities so trying to change each one has a low return on investment.

4. Misguidedtosis: Many leaders fall victim to this misguided habit. With the best intentions leaders at all levels incorrectly reward behaviors that actually have the opposite effect! One the most common is rewarding individual performance over team or company performance. Individual incentives cause so many problems that it is beyond the scope of this article, but here are a few.

Unless the incentives are for routine non-creative work such as piecework, individual incentives eventually backfire. Once getting an incentive you must continue or else it is perceived as punishment. There are many variables outside someone's control that can interfere with reaching an incentivized goal. The person doesn't receive the reward, and then feels punished for something they didn't do.

Individual incentives cause fudging figures and distorted reporting. The only way to reach a goal may be to move the integrity line out and do some dishonest, or even illegal, things in order to receive an incentive.

Individual incentives remove the opportunity for people to collaborate and work as a team, which studies show produce far superior results.

Another way to reward wrong behaviors is rewarding people through praise or attention for being agreeable and punishing those who disagree with you. This prevents all ideas from being heard, preventing better decisions. You may not like hearing from the naysayers, however, they may have insight that can prevent mishaps or pitfalls. Also, rewarding people for finding other people's mistakes can create a culture of blame and finger pointing.

The Cure: Review all reward systems you have in place, including monetary and verbal recognition, and scrutinize them to be sure you are not rewarding behavior that is causing other problems or sending the wrong message about what is truly important.

5. Ear-myopia: Poor listening is another bad habit of ineffective leaders. Listening is more than hearing. Listening involves understanding what people are trying to say and why they are saying it. Sometimes people offer ideas and suggestions that may be useful or may have a hidden agenda. Or frequently, listening is not at all about what people say, but what they do NOT say. If you roll out a new program in company and it is met with complete silence and everyone nods in agreement and you think everything is okay, then you have developed Ear-myopia. Open complaints are as meaningful as total lack of feedback. Almost everyone has an opinion, and you can bet that if you make any meaningful change people will have a viewpoint about it. When you don't receive feedback, and people agree with you most of the time, you can be sure that you have a bigger problem lurking in the shadows.

The Cure: develop a system of getting feedback from people whether it is a suggestion box, complaint box, or open discussion groups. Like communication, listening without retribution also builds trust.

6. Distorted Mirror Effect: The thinking is, "I'm OK, it's someone else that is the problem." In a book by the Arbinger Institute called Leadership and Self-Deception they point out that whenever you feel that someone else is the problem, that is the problem. Everyone has this habit to some degree. The reason is partly due to the belief that we don't want something to be wrong with ourselves. If we admit that we are part of the problem then we might be also admitting that our beliefs may be wrong. Since our beliefs are part of who we are, we will do almost anything to protect that. It is a blow to our ego when we are wrong. People's ego can be a powerful roadblock to change. This habit is a tough one to correct, but it can be done.

The Cure: Introspection. The process of self-reflection may not sound like a leadership skill worth pursuing, but it can be the single most important skill to becoming a great leader. Some of the underlying skill sets you need in order to be successful at this are humility, accepting criticism, and seeking feedback about your leadership skills. Don't overlook this one.

7. Blind Leading the Blind Disorder: If a leader does not have a vision, and cannot share a vision then they have Blind Leading the Blind Disorder. Having a sense of purpose is key to effectively leading people. When people do not know why they do what they do or how they fit into the overall goal of the company or department they become disengaged and feel like another cog in the wheel. A sense of purpose is also an effective motivator since it drives people without dangling a carrot or threatening to punish them to achieve their work. Without purpose people are blind to the direction they are going. Neither the leader, nor the worker knows the purpose or direction they are headed. This habit is developed over time by only focusing on short-term results. Eventually, the long-term effects of short-term thinking become ingrained in the culture and it becomes very difficult to change. Day-to-day activities and firefighting take precedence over building a long-term future for the company.

The Cure: Ask why your company, division, or department exists. Ask "why" five times to get to the root of the vision or purpose. Involve people in this exercise and share your findings with everyone. Meet with people and discuss their aspirations and what they hope to achieve in life and in the company. A sense of purpose is a natural motivator.

8. Teflonitis: Blame is so common in business and the world in general most people think it's natural. Although no one likes to be blamed and we all know what it feels like, we do not hesitate to place blame on someone when we are being blamed ourselves. Teflonitis is a bad and ineffective habit that produces no results other than to deflect being wrong and making someone feel humiliated. People come and go in companies. If the system caused a problem then blaming a person will do little to improve the situation and prevent it from happening in the future. A side effect of blame is fear. When blame is the first reaction, people will instinctively protect themselves and delay bad news, fudge figures, cover up mistakes, etc. The fear of being blamed creates a negative culture, lack of improvement, and slow communication.

The Cure: Stop pointing your finger at people and start finding out what in the system caused the mistake, problem, or issue. Leaders that correct the root cause of problems are much more effective. Great leaders focus on the problem and the process that caused the problem.

9.Telepathic Outcome Disorder: People cannot read minds so this habit is called Telepathic Outcome Disorder. Expecting people to know what you want without discussion because you think it's obvious is not a good leadership habit, and does not provide clear direction for the people you lead. This habit is also common when evaluating people; but during that meeting it's too late. Mind reading is a low yield leadership strategy, shed this habit quickly.

The Cure: The outcomes you expect need to be communicated clearly to people and that means two-way communication so if there is any confusion about your expectations it can be discussed. Check what you expect by asking the person to repeat back your request.

This article originally posted on LinkedIn

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