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Updated 15 Oct 2019


Signs you might be a terrible leader

As a business owner, leadership is more than just telling others what to do. Leadership is about the investment we make into others and the responsibilities we accept for being the voice and direction that others count on. 


Lewis Howes, Entrepreneur, 15 December 2013  Share  0 comments  Print


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Every great leader knows that his or her role comes with responsibility for those who follow him or her, and in ensuring they provide value in return for their loyalty.

Sometimes entrepreneurs – either by nature or habit – are bad leaders. Perhaps you lack the understanding of the social responsibilities that come with leading others. Or perhaps you’ve fallen into a routine and your leadership abilities have suffered for it.

Recognising poor leadership is a vital skill to help you achieve greatness. Here are signs that you are a bad leader, exhibiting traits that you don’t want to be following:

You make empty promises

Poor leaders motivate those following them with false promises of promotions, success and a great tomorrow, but rarely deliver on those promises.

Leaders who do this can be manipulative and often hold the goals and aspirations of their follower’s hostage in order to get them to comply.

As a business owner you need to be aware of what effect this has on your staff. If you commit to something but don’t follow through it can send the wrong message to your employees, who you are pushing to deliver the best results.

You fail to follow up

Poor leaders tend to lack the understanding that their followers are counting on them to handle issues that they are not able to fix on their own. Leaders can forget to follow up on these issues as they might be of little importance to them. Months can go by with little or no change.

Following up is an important part of leadership as it is our ability to hold ourselves accountable. When you make a promise, not only is your word on the line, but so is your integrity, so follow up with a “yes it’s completed” or “no, but here is when I commit to it being completed.”

You’re fearful of confrontation

Poor leaders often try to avoid confrontation, especially when involving performance. This is typically due to either a lack of knowledge on the topic at hand or an urge to be intentionally blind to the truth – deciding to act unaware about a situation rather than dealing with it.

While business leaders want to drive results, they can be at a loss when they don’t attain them through those who work for them. They often go around those tough conversations by trying to empower others to have them so that they don’t have to.

As opposed to avoiding confrontation, focus on outlining exactly what is expected in every partnership or transaction you engage in. That way, when there is a discrepancy, it’s easy to recognise.

You don’t hold yourself accountable

Nobody likes to be held accountable when things fail, especially poor leaders. They will often justify their need to hold others accountable rather than themselves. They don’t self-reflect and improve.

Because confrontation scares them, poor leaders can also be hesitant to hold others accountable outside of talking about doing so. As a result, they end up talking in circles and shifting blame from person to person out of fear.

A simple way to keep yourself accountable is to eliminate the word “sorry” from your vocabulary. When acknowledging your broken agreement, acknowledge in a way that suggests that you realise you broke your word and will commit to a change in action as you move forward.

When you acknowledge that your word is your most important asset, “sorry” becomes an easy way out. Great leaders take ownership of what they say and do.

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About the author


Lewis Howes, Entrepreneur

A former professional athlete, New York City-based Lewis Howes is author of LinkedWorking (418 Press, 2009) and creator of the LinkedInfluence training program. He creates educational courses about social marketing for entrepreneurs and plays handball for The USA National Team.

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