20 Bad Habits of Leaders (Test Yourself)

by The Architect on Mar 20, 2018

I learned something new this week on Leadership Psychology from one of my team.

It's called 'Interpersonal Limbic Regulation'.

... Not very catchy, I know. It's what psychologists call 'emotional contagion'.

You know how laughter is contagious? Well, the truth is that our bodies regulate our entire emotional state based on the state of those around us, not just through laughter. We change hormone levels, cardiovascular functions, even sleep rhythms depending on what's being felt or shown in our group.

Connections with others determine our teams' moods, resilience, and success (as always, Daniel Goleman called it).

Test yourself: What are you 'broadcasting' when you go into the office that you need to stop?

Just like we pick up bad moods, we pick up bad habits without even realising. We're social creatures, and the lengths we go to to mimic others subtley are amazing.

Most leaders only have 2 or 3 out of these 20 Bad Habits below, but after you test yourself, see if you can figure out where you picked up those bad habits from.

This test comes from Marshall Goldsmith (from our Book Club, where there's a video version by Callibrain).

“We can’t see in ourselves what we can see so clearly in others. As human beings we almost always suffer from a disconnect between the self we think we are and the self that the rest of the world sees in us.”


The 20 Bad Habits

1. Winning too much

The most common behavioral problem among successful people is the all-consuming need to win, even when winning doesn’t matter.

2. Adding too much value

When someone comes to you with an idea and you immediately feel the need to improve it, you are guilty of adding too much value.

3. Passing judgement

Offering an opinion in a business setting is okay. But asking people for their opinion and then making a comment about it is not okay. Nobody likes to be judged.

4. Making destructive comment

Many successful people believe they are straightshooters and pride themselves on their candor. Comments that undermine someone are never instructive or funny; they only cause pain and humiliation.

5. Starting with ‘no’, ‘but’ or ‘however

No matter how well intentioned you are, when you listen an idea, suggestion or comment, and begin your reply with no, but or however, you are communicating that you know better.

6. Telling the world how smart [you] are

If you use phrases such as ‘I already knew that’, you insult and alienate people. Before you speak, simply ask yourself, ‘Is anything I might say worth saying?’

7. Speaking when angry

The problem with losing your temper at work is that you also lose control. If you get angry, you’ll gain a reputation for being volatile and unbalanced.

8. Negativity, or Let me explain why that won’t work

Some people’s first response to any input is to point out that it won’t work and why. IF your first response is always negative, people will become reluctant to present you with new ideas.

9. Withholding information

In the chess game of power in the workplace, withholding information is a favorite, albeit devious, gambit. This power play only breeds mistrust.

10. Failing to give proper recognition

People need to experience the emotional payoff of having their hard work, contribution and success acknowledged and appreciated.

11. Claiming credit that [you] don’t deserve

To avoid this workplace crime, just decide that the group’s achievement matters more than your individual achievement.

12. Making excuses

A blunt excuse is ‘Sorry I’m late; I got caught in traffic’. A subtle excuse is when you blame some inherent failing like ‘I’m bad at returning phone calls’. Ask yourself why you have such failings, and do something about them.

13. Clinging to the past

This is an offshoot of the general tendency to place blame; assigning the fault for mistakes to someone or some event that happened years ago.

14. Playing favorites

When an employee gets the boss’s approval based on something other than performance, favoritism is often the cause.

15. Refusing to express regret

When do you apologize, you enable people to release ill feelings from the past and forge a new relationship in the future.

16. Not listening

Not listening is a common problem. Leaders are often guilty of this tendency because they feel they already know what someone is about to say.

17. Failing to express gratitude

Your automatic response to any suggestion should be ‘Thank you’. Gratitude is a skill that we can never display too often.

18. Punishing the messenger

The fault of responding with anger when someone tells you something you don’t want to hear. Again, the best response is ‘Thank you’.

19. Passing the buck

Exceptional leaders take responsibility, not only for themselves but for the people who work for them.

20. An excessive need to be ‘me’

Transforming a failing into a virtue is the result of feeling that the flaw is an essential part of your make-up. When you excuse negative or destructive behavior with this attitude, it keeps you from deciding to change.


What Got You Here Won't Get You ThereWe extracted this from Marshall Goldsmith's book 'What Got You Here Won't Get You There'.

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This month's book was 'The Little Book of Business Wisdom', where successful leaders such as Bill Gates look back on their best tips and tricks (click for an extract of 4 leaders).

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