Recently I spent time coaching a CEO who turned to Mentor Happy looking for help building a more cohesive, productive team. I approached the project with great excitement because it’s been my experience that when a CEO or senior leader seeks career coaching they’re typically open to change, receptive to candid feedback and understand they’re getting ready to become uncomfortable for a while until management issues are ironed out.
Unfortunately, my excitement waned within the first 20 minutes of meeting this “leader”. Their toxic leadership traits became immediately apparent.
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I’m sharing the basics of their story with you in an effort to help you understand if your leadership is toxic and/or if you have toxic leaders on your team. If so, here are some tips to help you drive change and improve leadership throughout your company.
How To Spot Toxic Leadership Traits
Someone with toxic leadership traits will self-identify immediately. Poor leaders think they’re awesome and impressive to others, but intelligent people only see a weak manager.
Toxic leaders have a lot of similar personality traits. A few obvious traits are:
- Inability to Delegate
- Poor Time Management
- Ineffective Communication Skills
- Poor Planning & Commitment
- Negative Attitude
- Problem Finder not Problem Solver
- Control Issues
- Poor Decision-Making Skills
- Lack of Self Evaluation
- Lack of Ownership
Being A Leader Doesn’t Mean Being The Smartest
In my meeting with the above-mentioned CEO, I quickly discovered I wasn’t talking to a leader, but rather someone who was arrogant, shirked any responsibility for their dysfunctional team and was quick to share why his managers (which he personally hired) were incompetent.
To avoid boring you with gritty details of the meeting, I’ll boil it down to my ah-ha moment.
Zero Self Evaluation Skills: This CEO had no understanding of the part he played in his declining business or his management teams’ failure. In essence, it was everyone’s fault but his own. He didn’t grasp that his toxic leadership traits were killing his business and frankly, he didn’t care to see it either.
As you grow in your career it’s easy to forget you don’t have all the answers. It’s also easy to forget you need your team. Once you forget you that you can‘t go it alone and start thinking you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re on a sinking ship. Don’t wait until you find yourself struggling with your staff and missing business goals. Instead, do a leadership self-evaluation every quarter focusing on the following leadership traits:
Humble leaders get more from their people. Your team will be eager to work for you, do well for you and support you if you’re a humble leader. No one enjoys working for an arrogant bully who constantly points out their position of authority.
Support an environment that allows candor. Be candid with your team and ask them to be candid with you. When they share their thoughts don’t snap back with reactive comments and petty hurt feelings. Take in what they are saying and look hard for the truth in their words. We all need to be called out from time to time. Take your team’s feedback constructively and you’ll become a better leader.
Create an environment of decisive leadership. Be decisive in your decisions. Encourage your management team to be decisive in their decisions. Don’t second guess your management team at every turn. Allow them to stretch outside their comfort zone and grow by making hard decisions. Support your managers’ bad decisions and use them as coaching opportunities; celebrate their good decisions.
Lead clearly and transparently. Formulate goals, business plans, and accountability plans. Hold your management team accountable. Require they hold their teams accountable. Hold yourself accountable. There should be no surprises regarding performance or lack thereof. Everyone should clearly understand their role, go-gets, and responsibility to the team and business. Including you.
Be a supportive leader in good and bad times. Don’t take responsibility for your teams’ successes or hard work. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back for work that isn’t yours.
If you listen hard you can hear yourself getting older. Don’t get sucked into the good old days as a leader. Listen to your younger managers and associates. What can you learn from them? How can their knowledge of current trends positively impact your business? Embrace their youth.
It’s easy to miss the fact that millennials are now in positions of leadership. They make buying decisions and impact large and small markets daily. Learn from your team and allow them to drive innovation and develop new ideas. Fuel your company’s position in the market by breaking out of the same old same old. Come to terms with the fact you aren’t as hip as you think you are.
Look In The Mirror
Toxic leadership will do irreparable harm to a business and must be addressed. Although toxic leadership traits can be corrected, it requires commitment and a sincere interest in changing bad habits.