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What is the difference between a good and a bad leader? You can probably answer this question yourself. You need only look at your experiences of authority, from your school, church, and workplace to give you an idea. By taking notice of the media, you will have also learned the right and the wrong way leaders issue power. From those who misuse their authority – stand up Harvey Weinstein – to the people who inspire and motivate their students – hello Dr. Valerie Camille Jones – you can quickly spot the differences.
And what about you? Are you in a leadership position? Would you consider yourself a good or a bad leader? You may have one answer; the people working underneath you may have a different opinion.
The following are some of the character traits that define both good and bad leadership. How many of them do you recognize in others? How many of them do you recognize in yourself?
When it comes to self-learning…
A good leader will always try and better themselves. Whether that’s through taking a leadership MBA online or brushing up on key skills with training seminars and workshops, they will enhance their position for the betterment of themselves and those who depend on them. They realise they will never know everything there is to know, but that’s okay. While improving their knowledge, they will understand that any gaps in their learning can be taken on by those who know better than them. Learning to delegate is a key skill!
A bad leader will pretend they know all there is to know about the business they are involved in. Not only do they consider themselves the best person for their job, but they probably consider themselves better than all the people working under them within their respective positions. Of course, this master of everything is more likely to be a master of nothing, and they will lose respect because of it.
When it comes to the management of others…
A good leader will value the people around them. They will talk to them fairly and honestly, and will always try to push them for their betterment. The leader will be supportive when needed and will be firm when called to be, always adhering to both a moral and a professional stance when it comes to the people around them.
A bad leader will fail their people in any number of ways. They might try to be a friend first and leader second, which invariably never works out when trying to exert authority down the line. Alternatively, they will be too hard on the people working for them, ruling with an iron fist that only brings about fear and distrust from their colleagues. They will micromanage too; not trusting others to do the jobs they have been given and taking too much control when it isn’t needed.
When it comes to honesty…
A good leader will be transparent, willing to own up to the mistakes they have made, and knowing when to confront the failings of others. Work practices will be above board, a good reputation will be maintained, and their working team will feel confident in trusting the person that has been appointed leader.
A bad leader will cover up misdeeds and will lie as a result. They won’t confront their weaknesses; they will blame their mistakes on others, and they will take part in working practices that could be considered shady. Of course, when they have finally been rumbled, they will lose trust from all those people around them, their every action from then on will be called into question, and they will probably need to hire a PR firm to salvage their broken reputation.
When it comes to communication…
A good leader knows when and how to speak. They will have the ability to share their vision with others, rallying their troops into action, and motivating them to do better. They understand communication isn’t only about talking. They will appreciate good communication extends to good listening skills, hearing what others have to say before evaluating a response. Interpersonal skills will be effective, and the people around them will feel valued as a result.
A bad leader doesn’t know when to shut up or doesn’t talk at all. Instead of an open-door policy, they will close themselves off to others, either through arrogance and lack of care, or the fear of communicating with others. They won’t take the time to listen to others, either. Team meetings are a nightmare, for the poorly communicating leader, and those trying to engage with this person ‘in charge.’
When it comes to making decisions…
A good leader will always strive to do the right thing. At times they will they will take the onus upon themselves, and will be direct, clear, and decisive. At other times, they will call on the aid of others. Calling on the viewpoints of the people around them, the leader will make a decision through collaboration, having value for what other people have to offer and say.
A bad leader will dither and procrastinate, possibly making a decision and going back on their word days later. The bad leader will concentrate too heavily on their own opinion, neglecting the needs of others. Alternatively, they may let others take the lead in the decision-making process, lacking the courage to stand up to the power of their own convictions. Quite often, bad decisions will be made as a result.
When it comes to the future…
A good leader has a vision. They know what they want to achieve and they will do all they can to achieve their goals. While they will be in charge of spearheading the way forward, they will also call on others to be a part of this. They know who to turn to for help in achieving set goals, whether that’s people within the team or those who are able to open doors on the outside. They care about the future, and want what is best for themselves, the people they work with, and the overall ambition of the business.
A bad leader has poor planning skills, with a live-for-today philosophy. They are continually winging it, hoping they are doing the right thing, while lacking the foresight to think about the long-term consequences. Alternatively, they might consider their future above and beyond the needs of the business or the people working under them. They know what they want out of life, but that might be at the expense of the welfare of others.
When it comes to leadership, there are many gray areas. A person can possess both good and bad traits in in their leadership positions, so it’s clear there is no such thing as perfection. Still, if you recognize yourself in our sweeping statements, congratulate yourself on your good traits, and make the vow to cut out some of the bad traits you might also possess. Self-learning is always important, so look at yourself and seek the help you need if you fall down in any area. And when it comes to your leaders? Appreciate that nobody is perfect, and gently guide them to a little bit of self-improvement. Easier said than done, we know!