Headline news almost always highlights the failings of leadership – whether it’s the principal of a school, the head of Eskom and SAA, the President of South Africa or the captaincy and management of the Proteas. As a leader of any organisation, team or country, the spotlight is on you to not only make good decisions but to behave in a manner that reflects the values and enhances the image and reputation of the organisation – both internally and externally.

There’s a wealth of information about what makes a good leader. As a business and executive coach, it’s often not about implementing good leadership habits with the executives we work with, but about eliminating bad habits that erode respect as a leader. Here’s our top 10 bad habits that make you lose credibility as a leader.
1. Emotional volatility 
When frustration and anger results in destructive, cutting remarks and sarcasm, you lose credibility as a leader. Often, people who are emotionally volatile feel bad after an outburst and then over-compensate when they calm down. When your team is on the receiving end of these inconsistent and extreme responses, respect is lost.
2. Blame game 
Newsflash for leaders: the buck stops with you and it’s your fault when something goes wrong! As a leader, you can’t pass the buck and blame everyone around you for mistakes and non-delivery. It’s up to you to make it happen, admit mistakes and ensure everyone learns from the inevitable mishaps that take place along the way. Leaders who blame their team and external forces are not fit to be leaders.
3. Excuses 
Similarly, when leaders make excuses for non-performance and poor behaviour, they do a dis-service to themselves, their organisation and their team. Excuses rationalise poor decisions and most people can see right through it.
4. Denial
Another way to lose street-cred as a leader is to bury your head in the sand like an ostrich, or sweep issues under the carpet and pretend they don’t exist. When you don’t tackle obstacles and challenges head on, immediately, you run the risk of leaving them to fester until they spiral out of control.
5. Claiming credit 
Success – however that is defined in your context – is the objective of most leaders. However, even in times of success, leaders can just as easily lose respect when they celebrate wins by taking all the glory and claiming credit for the work of a team.
6. My way or the highway 
Just because you are a leader, doesn’t mean you have to make all the decisions and come up with all the solutions on your own. As a leader, you need to surround yourself with people who can add value and make meaningful contributions. Leaders who fail to use knowledge and suggestions from the team fail to get buy-in. When you don’t listen, and don’t take notice of the concerns and ideas of those around you, you are not a leader, but an autocrat.
7. Playing favourites
This is a tough one. It’s natural to have “favourites” because they are usually the people you share values with. However, as a leader, you need to be able to back up and justify your decisions and choices with substance. Your treatment of people needs to be equal, and can’t be on the basis of nepotism, social interaction or being bullied into favouring one over another.
8. Lip service
When your words are not followed up with actions to support those words, your integrity as a leader is questionable. You can’t TELL your customers and employees your values. You need to LIVE and DISPLAY them in everything you do. There’s no authenticity in singing from a song sheet and telling people what they want to hear if there is no substance behind it.
9. Breaking promises
It’s quite simple. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep. Nothing can erode your reputation and respect as quickly as creating an expectation that is not met.
10. Shoddy manners 
The greatest strategists in the business world will fail if they fail on simple common decency. Punctuality, gratitude, speaking respectfully, praise when it’s due and basic ethics.
It’s easy to work on leadership skills – but not so easy to identify your leadership blind spots and bad habits that might be eroding your attempts to gain respect and credibility as a leader. If you need someone to hold up a mirror and help you cut out your bad habits, give me a call.
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