The List: 10 Bad Habits That Hold Leaders Back

Habits That Hold Leaders Back

If you find your leadership style is keeping you playing small, you might want to consider upleveling in any one of these areas.

A leader isn’t just someone who says, “Follow me.” They must also have a viable plan, a great deal of personal influence, and the work ethic to keep ahead of a group’s needs. Luckily, developing your leadership style is a skill that can be fine-tuned with knowledge and practice. This list of ten bad habits every leader should change is a great place to start.

1. Managing too widely is the opposite of micromanaging, but not an improvement

Being a leader doesn’t mean that you have to be responsible for managing every aspect of your business’s or project’s development. For many, the temptation to do so has only grown in recent years, as newer and better services continue to become available. Instead of giving in to the urge to manage everything on your own, work on developing a leadership style that looks for opportunities to empower your colleagues by parceling out administrative duties.

2. Learn to delegate and do it well

When delegation doesn’t bring about the desired results, leaders often find themselves trying to accomplish everything alone, which is why it’s so important to delegate well. Learning the art of effective delegation has two main requirements: an intimate knowledge of what you wish to accomplish, and the ability to properly utilize your influence. Whom a task should be delegated to, and how they can be properly motivated are two important questions that inexperienced leaders often fail to consider. When you can confidently answer those, you’re on your way to successfully delegating, which is important because it frees you up to concentrate on strategy and vision. Adding to your team’s responsibility can also help them feel like greater contributors, which will motivate them to be even more involved.

3. Not Leading By Example

Walking the walk is not always easy for a leader, especially when taking a shortcut or ignoring your own rule is the most efficient path to a solution. Failing to lead by example, though, can seriously undermine your credibility as well as the policies you’ve put in place. At every level, you want to underscore the importance of living up to the values and agreements that form the framework of what you’re trying to accomplish, because these are what motivate your colleagues and peers to keep their eyes on the goal. Demonstrate that you care, and others will too.

4. Forgetting Your Own Rules

Any and every organization has vulnerabilities, potential weaknesses that can be exploited by competitors or be aggravated by complacent team members, and lead to large scale destabilization. Thinking that something just won’t happen to you is a frequent precursor to problems that could have been easily avoided. An effective leader understands the reasons behind every policy and procedure, and considers even the smallest details to be relevant and vital to success as a whole. Forgetting why you do what you do often turns into forgetting to do it at all, a problem no leader is immune to, but which none can afford to have.

5. Develop a leadership style that empathizes, instead of sympathizes 

A clear understanding of the difference between sympathy and empathy is important here. Your employees and colleagues don’t need someone to feel sorry for them. What they do need is someone who is keenly aware of the human factor that is a big part of every organization. Understanding the work-related challenges faced by your peers, and sometimes their personal challenges as well, is a vital part of developing stronger connections within a team, and will make your input that much more valuable when it comes to strategic planning, delegating, and communicating.

6. Don’t keep up for the sake of appearance

It’s only natural for professionals to want to exude a sense of being up-to-date and state-of-the-art in all facets of their work. Unfortunately, that makes it easy to create a bad habit of stapling the latest technology right onto your project without giving due diligence to the impact it will have on existing systems. If what you have works well, then seamless integration with your current model should be a priority when it comes to adopting new solutions strategies. The last thing you want is to muddle a good thing with multiple infrastructures that can’t work together.

7. Hiding Behind Numbers

A leader often feels a strong obligation to defend their team and the development that they are tasked with, and that’s a good thing. In doing so, however, it’s common practice to rely on numbers obtained through measurement and tracking, and this is what can sometimes lead to a problem. While keeping track of numbers can create a helpful sense of accountability, losing sight of the end goal, whether it’s a successful product or a customer experience, becomes much easier when your vision is clouded with metrics. Numbers as tools are useful, but it’s a leader’s job to keep focused on the quality of the end result.

8. An effective leadership style seeks to simplify when it makes sense

Today’s technologies have the ability to affect productivity in a huge way, and are still being widely under-implemented by most professionals. A good leader keeps herself in the know regarding the potential of new tools and services for automation that can alleviate the burden of tedious everyday tasks. With automated, cloud-based services capable of everything from scheduling to accounting to marketing, it’s easier than ever to find ways to free up your team’s time and energy, and in doing so, to improve productivity and morale.

9. Falling Victim To Analysis Paralysis

The threat is real, and there’s no way to avoid it. An effective leadership style begins with keeping up with emerging technologies and processes that could offer a great value to the work. Choice paralysis is real so it’s helpful to remember that arriving at a good decision that allows forward progress is better than taking too long to arrive at a great decision. Getting stuck on an idea is in many ways just as damaging as failing to even look for ways to improve. The takeaway here is to run from distraction when you feel it looming, and concentrate on adding some value over none at all.

10. A leadership style of communicating poorly is a recipe for disaster

Properly managing a project requires, above all else, good communication. Everyone involved needs to share in the vision and the goals that are associated with the task at hand. With all of the avenues of staying in touch that are available with today’s level of technology and digitization, there’s really no excuse for not being able to communicate efficiently and effectively to employees or team members, even when they are scattered across the globe. As a leader, you want to make sure that when someone can’t seem to carry out their responsibilities, it isn’t a reflection of your inability to communicate clearly.

Need help developing an effective leadership style? Contact me today to reach your maximum leadership potential.


Christina Holloway is an executive coach and business coach. She helps executives and entrepreneurs grow their companies faster, create results-driven teams, and increase profitability. She has been featured in ForbesThe Huffington PostAddicted2Success and Fast Company. If you’re interested in working with Christina, take a look at her strategy sessions and contact her to get started.

Christina Holloway