Effective leadership is more important than ever. Leaders play a critical role in setting the tone and guiding their organizations toward success. However, not all leaders are created equal.
By understanding these habits (or warning signs), you can avoid being misled by manipulative or self-serving leaders and instead find inspiration from those who truly embody great leadership qualities.
1. Lack of Transparency.
False leadership narratives often lack transparency when it comes to decision-making and the organization's goals. Leaders who are not open about their motives or withhold information may try to hide something.
Lack of transparency can create a culture of distrust within the organization, as employees may feel left out of important decisions or unsure about the direction of the company. This lack of clarity can also lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications, which can further erode trust and morale.
On the other hand, leaders who are transparent and forthcoming with information build stronger relationships with their teams and foster a sense of unity and shared purpose. By being open about their thought processes, goals, and challenges, leaders can create a culture where everyone feels valued and invested in the success of the organization.
2. Overemphasis on Personal Success.
A false leadership narrative may focus heavily on the leader's achievements and success rather than the organization's success as a whole. Leaders who prioritize their own interests over those of the team are unlikely to inspire trust and loyalty.
Leaders who prioritize personal success over that of the team may also be more inclined to take credit for successes while blaming others for failures. This type of behavior can create a toxic work environment where employees feel undervalued and unappreciated.
In contrast, leaders who prioritize the organization's and their team's success are more likely to build strong relationships with their employees and foster an atmosphere of collaboration and teamwork. They understand that their success is tied to their teams and work tirelessly to help everyone achieve their goals. By focusing on collective success rather than individual achievements, leaders can inspire their teams to reach new heights and create a culture that celebrates shared victories.
3. Inconsistent Messaging.
When leaders say one thing but do another, it can create confusion among team members and erode trust in leadership. Pay attention to whether leaders' actions match their words and whether they change their tune depending on their audience.
Inconsistent messaging can also lead to a lack of clarity and direction within the organization. When leaders send mixed signals or change their messaging frequently, employees may struggle to understand what is expected of them or how they should prioritize their work. This can create frustration and disengagement among team members, who may feel like they are constantly shifting gears without a clear sense of purpose.
Conversely, leaders who communicate consistently and clearly provide their teams with a roadmap for success. By setting expectations and providing regular updates on progress, these leaders help everyone stay focused and aligned around shared goals. This creates a sense of stability and purpose that can boost morale and productivity across the organization.
4. Lack of Accountability.
Leaders who refuse to take responsibility for failures or mistakes are unlikely to foster a culture of accountability within the organization. Watch out for leaders who blame others or make excuses when things go wrong.
When leaders fail to hold themselves accountable, it can also create a sense of unfairness and resentment among team members. Employees may feel like they are being held to a higher standard than their leaders or that they are being left to clean up messes that were not their fault. This can erode trust and respect for leadership, leading to decreased morale and productivity.
Alternatively, leaders who model accountability inspire their teams to take ownership of their work and strive for excellence. By admitting mistakes and taking steps to address them, these leaders demonstrate the importance of learning from failures and continuously improving. This creates a culture where everyone feels empowered to take risks and innovate, knowing that leadership will support them through both successes and setbacks.
5. Toxic Culture.
False leadership narratives may rely on fear, intimidation, or manipulation to maintain control over team members. If you notice a toxic culture within an organization, with high turnover rates or low morale among employees, this may be a sign that the leadership narrative is false.
A toxic culture can have serious consequences for the organization and its employees. A negative work environment can lead to stress, burnout, and even physical health problems among team members. It can also harm productivity and innovation, as employees may be too focused on navigating toxic dynamics to focus on their work. Additionally, a toxic culture can damage an organization's reputation and make attracting top talent or retaining existing employees difficult.
In comparison, leaders who prioritize creating a positive work environment built on trust, respect, and open communication foster a culture where everyone feels valued and supported. This benefits individual employees and helps the organization thrive in the long run by attracting top talent and encouraging innovation.
It's important to be vigilant when evaluating leadership narratives in order to avoid falling prey to false promises or manipulative tactics. By paying attention to issues like transparency, consistency, accountability, and culture, you can better assess whether a leader is genuine and trustworthy.
Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.
Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.