5 Ways You’re Failing as a Leader


We all know a bad leader from a good one.  It’s like a superpower.  We just know.  How well a leader leads can sometimes hinder the culture of the organization and or performance of the team. 

How often do we call out what leaders are doing wrong?  How do we know what to look for?  It’s tough to identify every detail leaders do wrong, but there are some more common than others.  

As a leader you have to evaluate how you’re leading.  The more trust the team has the stronger the team is.  If you were to fall, you would want someone there to pick you up, right?  If you reach your hand out, would your team be there to lift you up? A successful team works together and you are a part of that team.  Here are what I feel are five ways you could be failing as a leader.

You devalue your team members.  Every team is diverse to some capacity.  Each person brings a set of skills and experience to the table.  A bad leader overlooks talent and experience and undervalues their team members.  Teams are not things.  They are people.  You can’t see people as objects.  They hold a different value.  They are the life force of any organization.  Never underestimate the power of your team.  Diversity is a great team asset.  Teams work best when they are used to the best of their abilities.  A great leader values  the abilities of their team members.

It’s your way and only your way.  This aligns with the value of the team.  Plain and simple, not every decision has to be made from you nor does every idea have to generate from you.  Part of a leader’s job is to grow others into leading.  You can’t do that when you’re the only person making decisions or providing ideas.  You have to allow others to contribute as well.  If you don’t use your team you will end up losing your team. A great leader provides the opportunity for others to contribute. 

You don’t listen. Communication is a two way street.  Your team members may have great ideas and solutions.  Sometimes the best solutions come from those around you, but you’ve got to listen.  Listening is crucial to interacting with your team.  Someone may be having a bad day and it’s your responsibility as a leader to help them bounce back.  Listening isn’t just an audible action, it’s also a visionary action.  Body language, moods and performance can be seen and interpreted.  You’ve got to listen to what others are saying even when they’re not actually saying it.  Leaders listen. 

You’re looking out for yourself above others.  Nothing disconnects a leader more as to when they’re only looking out for their self.  Being a leader is putting others first.  Leaders give team members the glory and the recognition.  Your team won’t succeed if you only look after yourself.  Leaders look out and help their team rise to success.

You don’t lead by example. One the most powerful ways to lead is to lead by example.  If you enforce a standard for the team, but you’re not following it, then it just shows that you are above the standard and them.  Just like a child mimicking their parent, a team will mimic their leader.  What you do, they will do.  What you tolerate becomes the normal.  If you have bad habits, they will adopt them because that’s the culture you have allowed to take over.  Before you expect others to act the set standards be sure that you are doing so as well.  Leaders lead by example.

4 Ways to be an Effective Follower

Leadership, Organization, Tips, Tricks

Leadership doesn’t happen without followers.  There must be followers for there to be leaders.  Do you remember the quote from the movie Drumline, “You must learn to follow before you can lead.”  It’s a great quote and it does provide a starting point to becoming a leader.  It takes a variety of approaches to be an effective follower, but from my experience in the military, and as a new airman, here is what helped me become effective at following.  Maybe it will help you!

“You must learn to follow before you can lead.”  Drumline (2002)

Play your skills accordingly! – In every team, each member will bring their own set of skills, knowledge and experience.  You must know your strengths and your weaknesses to be able to know where you can help and when you will need to learn and assist. When an opportunity arrives to perform your strengths, play them.  When you have an opportunity to improve your weaknesses, take that moment to watch and learn from others.  Also, use your strengths to teach others that may have your strengths as their weakness. It’s a team effort after all!

Communicate! – I talk about communication quite a bit from the leader’s perspective, but it’s equally important as a follower.  You must communicate with your team members and your leader.  Communication is a two way street.  To be an effective follower one must listen intently to the directions or guidance the leader is instructing.  And if you don’t understand the instructions, you will need to be wise enough to ask for additional details or clarification. Communicate your questions! Communication should be a continuous motion to and from.  Speak in well understood terms so that perspectives are not misinterpreted.  Use words precisely, but don’t forget to listen to others as well.  Listening is one thing and hearing is another, something I’ve mentioned in previous blogs.  Listening is auditory; hearing is processing the information into structured data. If you’re not communicating effectively, the team isn’t functioning properly. 

Take initiative! – If you see something that needs to be done and no one is doing it, this is your opportunity to be a leader.  Taking initiative paves to way to leadership.  Showing initiative shows your leader that you’re ready to play ball, motivated and willing to get things done.  Leaders love a team member that takes initiative.  It often acts as a catalyst for others to join in.  If your leader asks for a volunteer, raise your hand, no matter how simple or hard the task is. You will always have help when needed.  If you see someone else needing help, go help them!  You don’t have to be the first to take action; just don’t be the person who never takes action. 

Team effort! – The old saying, “There is no I in team.”  It’s not about how awesome you are.  It’s not about knowing more than your teammates.  It’s simply not about you.  YOU are a part of a TEAM!  A leader knows that it’s not about them, but knows it’s about the big picture.  A follower must understand that same picture.  A team works better together, not individually.  When you do things, do things with the team in mind and with the overall purpose in mind.  A successful team crosses the finish line together. Followers must work to support the team and their leader.