5 Habits That You Don’t Realize Are Undermining Your Leadership Potential

leadership potential

So you’ve finally made it to the corner office and you’re the head honcho.

Now it’s time to lead your team to success. But whether you’re a first-time manager, a long-time leader in a new, highly-visible role, or an aspiring boss climbing the corporate hierarchy, you may be making some mistakes that could undermine your leadership potential. Here are a few habits to break before it’s too late.

  • You always have the answers.

When an employee comes to you with a problem, having the solution ready to go may not be the right course of action. Some employees, for example, are not looking for you to provide solutions. Perhaps they already are trying to resolve the problem on their own and merely want to update you on their progress. To provide a conflicting solution might force an employee to abandon her progress or might teach her that you do not wish to empower her to resolve her own challenges. Some employees may only wish to vent their problem to a superior and seek your approval or advice as opposed to your immediate answer.

Overall, however, the best leaders are the ones who ask questions. Doing so demonstrates trust in your employees and a willingness to learn more about the situation. If you have an answer before you’ve dug into all the possible questions, that might be a sign that you have the wrong answer.

  • You’re always the first to speak. 

Employees value a strong leader but they also want to be heard and appreciated. If every meeting begins with the boss’ remarks, the employees may not feel as empowered to take charge. Some savvy bosses may wish to begin all team meetings by having a different staff member take charge or deliver opening remarks or updates from her group. Doing so shows that you are able to be in charge without dominating. It also shows your team that you’re invested in their success. 

Also read: 4 Part Framework to Orchestrate the Best Team Meeting You’ve Ever Held

  • You’re all action. 

Especially when taking on a new role, being quick to launch initiatives may seem vital to your survival. For outsiders joining a new company in a leadership role, the mistakes and problems may appear obvious to your fresh set of eyes. However, right or wrong, acting too soon and too often may be hazardous to your team and your longevity with the company.

For one, pick your battles. Making too many changes will quickly lead to burnout, stress and confusion on your team. Spend time watching and learning to determine which problems are, in fact, priority and which are minor and can therefore be allowed to continue for some time before being addressed.

Next, beware making changes to the status quo without understanding why these standards are in place. Perhaps your second in command seems inept for his role. Rather than fire him swiftly, meet with him and learn about his history with the company. Perhaps your predecessor demoralized him and his current performance reflects the poor leadership of that last boss. Under your leadership, perhaps he will thrive. Better to wait and learn more before firing a person and signaling to your team that you resolve conflicts by axing personnel.

Finally, remember that some initiatives may have been put in place not by your predecessor but by your own boss. Making changes before investigating the reason behind these initiatives could turn your boss into an early adversary.

  • You sweat the small stuff.

Your attention to detail may be something you pride yourself on. But in a leadership role, it’s time to take a 30,000-foot view instead of focusing on smaller initiatives. This change in perspective can be especially challenging for first-time managers. Furthermore, micromanaging may have a snowball effect for these new leaders: you’ve never had to worry about big picture strategies before so you fall back on your core competencies and end up micromanaging the employees already delivering on these tasks. Then, your micromanaging reads as insecurity to your employees—which is what you’ve been trying to mask or overcome the whole time.

Take a step back, learn how to manage and how to trust your team whenever possible. If necessary, find a mentor who can advise you on how to guide a team without getting your hands too dirty in the nitty-gritty details.

Also read: When You Need to Sweat the Small Stuff

  • You lose control.

It should go without saying that yelling at team members compromises your authority. However, not all managers who lose control manifest this behavior with raising their voices. Some begin showing the internal downward spiral of stress: they fail to return phone calls and emails, they appear overwhelmed, they are constantly fighting a cold. Some become too entrenched in a single task to keep an eye on the team as a whole.

To perform your best and remain in control, understand what makes you operate at peak performance. What do you look and sound like when you’re at your best? Are you yelling? Are you crying? Are you stressed? Are you unavailable? Likely not. You’re likely cool, calm and able to manage challenges as they arise. When you don’t have the answer, you’re open and honest and willing to seek a solution. Try to be the best version of yourself at all times. If you must lose control, do so alone and in a way that will not harm your team’s morale: hit a punching bag at the gym, go for a run, vent to a family member who will still love you even if you get upset—because your team’s feelings for you will never be unconditional.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.