8 Bad Habits Great Leaders Know to Break

RL04-04-2016From 21 days to two months to more than a year, there are many different theories about how long it actually takes to form a new habit. Changing behaviors requires a tremendous amount of willpower and dedication, and ultimately falls upon the individual to make a conscious effort to accept the change into their routine.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Great leaders aren’t born, they are made. Through the culmination of education, experience, mentoring, determination, and personal ambition, leaders must develop by nurturing good habits and, more importantly, shedding the bad ones—a task much easier said than done. Unfortunately, no one is immune—new leaders and seasoned veterans alike are susceptible to picking up a bad habit or two as they develop their skills and expertise. Here are eight of the worst habits great leaders must learn how to break.

  1. Making the same mistake twice
    As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Great leaders, just like all of us, fail from time to time. The difference, however, is in their immediate next steps. Every mistake has a lesson to learn. The best leaders take those lessons to heart and come back for round two with a new game plan and better prepared than before.
  2. Accepting assumed constraints
    Great leadership has the ability to break down barriers. Always prepared to take an unconventional approach to solving a problem, the most effective leaders don’t dwell for long on the reasons why something won’t work and instead focus on how it could.
  3. Undervaluing their people
    One of the most important assets of any successful company is its people. From the front lines to the boardroom, everyone has a role to play. Great leaders are adept at not only understanding the skills and expertise each individual brings to the team, but also nurturing and developing them.
  4. Failing to mentor
    Author and speaker John Maxwell said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Being a mentor is an important part of being a great leader. Even if they are not in a formal mentorship relationship, leaders are always influencing the people around them and setting the standard others will follow.
  5. Talking at people
    There’s a big difference between “talking at” and “talking to.” Strong communication skills are perhaps the most important characteristic of great leaders and those who do it best, engage in a positive back and forth. From explaining overall company strategies to providing one-on-one coaching, you have to be able to relay your vision clearly and concisely in order to build excitement and bring everyone together in a united front.
  6. Ignoring constructive feedback
    Great leaders take constructive feedback seriously. In fact, they often seek it out. From the people they lead to the people who lead them, they understand there’s always a lesson to be learned that can help them develop into a more well-rounded and effective leader.
  7. Failing to give recognition
    Always give credit where credit’s due. People like to know their blood, sweat, and tears weren’t all for naught. Whether it’s a quick, hand-written note or a more formal, public nod of appreciation, taking time to recognize someone’s hard work can go a long way toward building a team of dedicated, engaged workers.
  8. Trying to do it all
    Great leaders are great delegators. As much as they may want to try, they recognize the fact that they only have two hands and must trust the people they lead to do their part. However, if they’ve fostered a positive and productive working environment, a great leader can rest easy knowing their team will be ready, willing, and able to step up and take control.

What are some bad leadership habits you’ve had to break? How did you do it? What kind of impact did it make on your company or the people you lead? Let us know in the comments section below.

3 Responses to 8 Bad Habits Great Leaders Know to Break

  1. Cathy April 5, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    My habit is in my enthusiasm responding with a “fix” to the problem before listening actively and completely to the person sharing. I am getting better at waiting, breathing and taking a moment to not react and responding once I have allowed the other person to complete their thought and me to digest it. Responding with thought instead of reacting from emotion is always the better response! Moral of the story- keep your emotions and enthusiasm in check and channel it in a more positive way.

  2. Monique April 26, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    Can we reprint your article in our newsletter to CA nonprofits?

    • Refresh Leadership May 3, 2016 at 9:00 am #

      Hi Monique – Yes, you may reprint this article in your newsletter, as long as it is not an online publication (like another blog, for example). Please use the following byline:

      This article is published courtesy of Express Employment Professionals. For more information on other leadership and employment-related topics, check out our blog RefreshLeadership.com.

      Thank you for your interest!

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