14 bad habits leaders can pass on to their teams

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A boss can be a mentor and a good example — or just the opposite. Leaders hold a position of power in a business; their words mean more, their actions speak louder and team members take their direction from what leaders say, both verbally and nonverbally. If a leader is modeling a bad habit for the people who work for them, that bad habit is very likely to spread, causing serious damage to culture, morale and the company.

The Business Journals

As models to their employees, leaders should be aware of how their words and actions translate to those who work for them. Below, 15 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share negative habits bosses may be unconsciously teaching their employees and explain why they’re so damaging.

1. Leading with fear
When a boss leads with fear, not only are they lacking confidence in their own abilities but they are instilling a fear-based culture within their own team. Employees working in a culture of fear are naturally less productive and often leave the company within one to two years. When a leader is stuck in a fear mindset, leadership coaching is a great tool to change behavior. – Lauren Winans, Next Level Benefits

2. Disregarding their own orders
Over the years I have seen a lot of leaders bark orders and expectations only to disregard those orders themselves. I’ve found leading by example is a successful way to be a part of the team and the solution. They’ll see you do it — for example, most employees will be surprised or feel a bit proud that you still take the trash out. – Rob Ihrig, Endicott Coffee

3. Gossiping
Leaders who gossip or talk disparagingly about others are toxic. Negative talk is never productive, and when it comes from someone in a leadership role, it is damaging to the morale of the entire department or company. Negativity is like a snowball: If it gets momentum, it can grow bigger and quickly get out of control. Anything done in a mean-spirited way is never helpful in a business environment. – Jim Lane, Lane Technology Solutions

4. Not being honest
A bad habit I have seen over and over again is leaders not being honest with team members. Many leaders are afraid of providing constructive feedback, which is critical for the growth of the organization and our team members. – Yanet Herrero, Kings Service Solutions, LLC

5. Poor listening
One of the worst habits I have seen leaders struggle with is poor listening. When you fail to listen to your people, it can result in lower productivity and communication lapses. Listening is key to your success as a leader and the well-being of any organization. – Mark Gibbens, Erudite Capital

6. Lack of transparency
Honesty and transparency start at the top! If the boss is willing to share the key details important to the business — along with their struggles professionally and perhaps even personally — employees will then follow with encouragement. An honest and transparent business culture allows obstacles to success to be removed and real issues to be solved before they become insurmountable problems. – Jason Dunn, DACS Asphalt & Concrete

7. Letting ego get in the way
The biggest thing that most leaders struggle with is coachability, which requires that you take candid and honest feedback from your team and look to utilize that feedback to make yourself a better leader. Many leaders’ egos are too big for this, and as a result, people don’t give them honest feedback, which hinders their ability to grow and effectively lead their teams. – Jonathan Keyser, Keyser

8. Subpar communication
Clear communication is key to healthy work and personal relationships. A lack of communication is risky because it can lead to assumptions and cause confusion about expectations in the workplace. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

9. Not taking time off
Leaders who do not take time off can set the impression that this is the expectation of the business. If team members feel like they can never “turn off” it will lead to fatigue, anxiety, poor performance and, eventually, people leaving. Leaders need to set a better example by taking time off or communicating to team members that everyone is encouraged to take a break. – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

10. Living in ‘reaction mode’
Often the whirlwind of the day moves bosses into the moment. Imagine decisions becoming increasingly short-term, ad hoc, task-level responses. One solution is to create an action plan with clear objectives, then use financial and nonfinancial numbers to ensure that your flight plan is on course. – Kirk W. McLaren, Foresight CFO

11. Saying one thing but doing another
“Do as I say, not as I do.” Leading by example requires integrity and commitment, and sometimes this is easier said than done. While it might not be intentional, it is very destructive when a boss says one thing and does another. It gives mixed messages, and employees are left guessing what actions to model. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

12. Trying to mentor a direct report
A supervisor should never be a mentor for someone who reports to them. I see many mentor-mentee relationships that are like that, and it is damaging to the mentee’s growth. This is because the supervisor/mentor can be biased and will likely guide the mentee towards items that benefit both rather than just one. – Jerry Ramos, Ramos Consulting, LLC

13. Hypocrisy
Hypocrisy can be very damaging in one’s relationship with a leader. Don’t expect your employees to put in the time and effort if you aren’t going to do the same. The way you treat and interact with your employees will carry over to how they interact with each other and your client base. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

14. Trying to fix every problem
One of my greatest weaknesses is the desire to fix every problem that is presented. The impact is that some employees may use me as a crutch, which impedes their growth. Another outcome is that I offend the employee who only wants to vent, not have me solve their problems for them. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

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