Read Ralph's Book The Leadership Maker
Follow Us:
Phone: 207-653-2552


Behaviors That Keep Leaders From Becoming Great

Home > Articles > Leadership

Behaviors That Keep Leaders From Becoming Great

There are many traits that we as human beings have learned since childhood. Some we learned from our parents, siblings, and other models in our young lives and some we learned at current or previous jobs. Not all traits are good ones and most of us know this because we observe and learn not to take on those particular behaviors. The behaviors are obvious to most of us and we are sometimes embarrassed for the leader that is exhibiting the behavior and that leader appears to be clueless about them and how it looks to others. By now, we have seen and heard so many traits that we decided to summarize the major behavior "faux pas" of some folks who are failing as leaders. Here are some traits that we've identified as getting in the way of great leadership:


What People See

What People Want to See

Trying to win every argument:

  • A leader who wants their employees to agree with everything that is said or done, even if the decision is a bad one.
  • A leader who pays more attention to blind loyalty rather than people who challenge the status quo.
  • A leader who is open to people's ideas and thoughts.
  • A leader who helps his or her team or staff to be winners selflessly.
  • A leader who cares about his or her employees more than his own ego.

Wants to give constant comments about everything; judges and or moralizes:

  • A leader who excessively adds his or her comments at every discussion, positive or negative.
  • A leader who either criticizes or gives over-the-top compliments.
  • A leader who imposes his or her standards on others or is constantly rating people in their organization.
  • A leader who expects others to know by osmosis what needs to be done.
  • A leader who listens and asks questions for clarity.
  • A leader who encourages others to add comments or suggestions that may work or solve the problem.
  • A leader who is open to differences in personality, ways of doing things, and to go by an employee's successful attributes.
  • A leader who believes in training others to do the job or task if a person doesn't have the experience.

Has to make snide or sarcastic remarks:

  • A leader who can't help him or herself to say something off color or snide or sarcastic to get laughs or poke at other people's weaknesses.
  • These leaders tend to think they are sharp or witty and most employees fear this or feel belittled.
  • A leader who can joke and poke fun at him or herself in an appropriate way is fun and helps people to feel at ease.
  • A leader who does not tolerate sarcasm or snide remarks and is consistent in this expectation gives the feeling of having his or her employees' backs.

Has to be the smartest person in the room:

  • A leader who is always telling their employees or others how smart he or she is and wouldn’t be in the leadership position if this was not the case.
  • A leader who dismisses others because listening to them would minimize his or her authority.
  • A humble leader who encourages others to gain the knowledge of their jobs or to get the training they need in order to grow and develop.
  • A leader who encourages others to be heard so other ideas can surface.
  • A leader who is happy about other  people’s success.

Can't hold back his or her anger:

  • A leader who cannot control his or her temper.
  • A leader who yells and hollers at his or her employees when things go wrong.
  • A leader who can control negative emotions, such as anger, is what the employees look up to and expect.
  • A leader who exhibits patience and understanding, while encouraging people to do better.

Has be the "Devil’s Advocate":

  • A leader who has to give the negative side to any scenario, especially when not solicited by the employees, and even if the idea is a good one.
  • A leader who is the "Angel's Advocate" goes much further than the alternative because it gives the employee a sense that he or she is on the right track.

Has to keep the info to him or herself:

  • A leader who fears losing his or her power or authority if important and relative information is shared.
  • A leader who shares information for the better good of the organization and to help others do their jobs at high levels.

That's what they are paid for "attitude":

  • A leader who cannot appreciate employees for more than just the work that needs to be done, because, "That's what they get paid for."
  • A leader who gives praise and appreciation to his or her employees goes a long way toward productivity and respectful work practices.

Has to have all the credit and make excuses when things go wrong:

  • A leader who annoyingly overestimates his or her success or takes the credit for other people's ideas that is not deserved.
  • A leader who makes constant excuses or expects others to accept excuses when he or she gives them.
  • A leader who needs to blame everyone but him or herself.
  • A leader who gives away all the credit when things are going smoothly and takes all the blame when things go wrong.
  • A leader who knows that excuses are not the answer and that taking responsibility will resonate with employees to help fix any problem or issue that comes around.

If it ain’t broke "attitude":

  • A leader who looks to the past about everything that went wrong (or right) and will not take risks or try new things.
  • A leader who is resistant to the change process.
  • A leader who takes risks and challenges the status quo to enhance all employees' and the organization's success.
  • A leader who allows mistakes as learning events and encourages his or her employees to learn from them.

Have to have fans:

  • A leader who has a few favorites and promotes only those who are "yes" employees.
  • A leader who gets to know all employees and treats all fairly and consistently.

No regrets, when there should be, and a don't care what you think "attitude":

  • A leader who fails to express his or her regrets when behaving poorly or even to apologize for misbehaving or saying inappropriate things to his or her employees.
  • A leader who is only concerned about what he knows or things and refuses to listen to other people’s ideas or suggestions.
  • A leader who does not care what others think – his or her way or the highway.
  • A leader who owns the  issues whenever it happens and encourages others to inform him or her when something happens.
  • A leader who accepts other’s feedback and takes it as a gift.
  • A leader who will take the time to listen because he or she knows how important that is to employees and the organization’s health.

Why should I say "Thank You?"

  • A leader who lacks manners and is self-consumed with his/her own status.
  • A leader who because he or she doesn’t like the answer, punishes the messenger, even though employees are only trying to help.
  • A leader who has tact, manners, and self-confidence and who models respectful behaviors.
  • A leader who takes any message as a good communication tool and appreciates being told.

I have to be "ME":

  • A leader who knows about the inappropriate behaviors and simply accepts them as who he or she is.
  • A leader who is not concerned with how others see them as long as he or she doesn’t have to change.
  • A leader who is willing to change behaviors when needed to help his or her effectiveness with the employees.
  • A leader who can look in the mirror and knows that something needs to be done and make the necessary changes.

Obsessing over goals:

  • A leader who is so focused on the goal or task that he or she doesn't see anything else that needs attention.
  • A leader who is more concerned about his or her projects than the needs of the staff or organization.

Example of obsessing over goals:

  • Walking by a sick person if we are in a hurry to get to work or be at a meeting.
  • Ignoring a person when he or she is upset or crying because you just don’t have the time to “deal”.
  • Ignoring everything else around you in order to get something done.
  • A leader who can be interrupted from what he or she is doing to allow others to get the help they need, if the issues are important and good for the organization.
  • A leader who knows what’s important and can ask for other people’s help when the goals or tasks need to be accomplished.
  • A leader who encourages others to pay attention to the priorities, while also taking time to regroup or recharge.
  • A leader who communicates when he or she needs to work on a deadline and needs to time to accomplish it.


It's good to know that we can all learn and grow out of these annoying traits that keep employees from trusting us as leaders.  We don't learn these things overnight and it may take time to overcome most of them.  If you find yourself exhibiting one or more of the above (middle column) traits, now is the time to try different, more resonating traits that will last a life time if you pay attention or let others help you by letting them give you their feedback.

0 (0)


Lorraine Twombly
Priority Learning



Submit A Comment:



Preparation for Building a Culture

Every Year Tells a Story

The Pillars of Organizational Culture

Magic - What is in this book?

Dunning Kruger Effect

The language of leading through caring (part II)

Why does a flourishing organization matter?

Peer Communication and Care

Communications That Can Enhance your Relationships

Persistence: A Vital Leadership Quality

Increasing Meeting Participation


Time for a Paradigm Shift