How not to lead?

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I am a big believer in not only training people on how to do something but also focus on things not to do. So, in light of that, this week’s blog is focused on how not to lead. 

Being a leader can certainly be tough. You need to get the balance ‘just right’ in some areas and sometimes it is a fine line that you need to juggle between. For example, common frustrations we hear from team members as part of our job satisfaction and touchpoint interviews can be about the same point but either not enough or too much. 

Below are some common examples:-

Micromanaging OR too hands off/not enough information

Nobody likes a leader that stands over the top of people, literally or figuratively. 

This generally includes breaking expectations down to a ridiculous degree to team members who know how to do their job,  not being flexible at all on different approaches or ways of doing things (ie my way or the highway) or asking for an unrealistic number of updates.  

Similarly, leaders who empower team members too early, are too hands-off and cant articulate what they are actually looking for can mean that team members are wasting their time regularly and not feeling like they are achieving anything. This is normally linked with leaders who are not clear themselves on what they want. 

Delegating too much v not delegating at all 

You all know those leaders who don’t ask for help or hand out any tasks to do. This results in the team not being upskilled and also getting involved in wider projects that could aid in their development. 

Similarly, leaders who delegate everything out, take credit for other’s peoples work, and leave themselves with nothing on their plate quickly can earn themselves a bad reputation

Flooding team members with too much information vs not sharing enough information 

Communication and the levels of it always rate highly in most of our team surveys for different reasons. 

Some leaders have too many meetings, cc every email, provide 100 page plus documents to the team, and share absolutely everything (including things that are not relevant to team members), which can be overwhelming and also super difficult to break down. This results in information often being skimmed over or not reviewed at all.

TIP – This is also an alert to the professional developer or regular conferencer who comes back and shares notes and a whole bunch of actions to the team after these events. Remember that sometimes your team has not been to the same event you were on and are not in the same headspace. It is one thing to share key learnings and themes but another to come back with a whole bunch of actions that are not explained. Ensure you prioritise where these new actions sit versus existing priorities 

Similarly, leaders who lock all information in a vault, don’t provide updates, don’t share relevant information or targets, don’t have any meetings whatsoever can leave team members feeling left out in the cold, not knowing where they sit in terms of their performance or what to prioritise that is more important  

Promising the world and not delivering vs not inspiring at all 

We all know those leaders who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. They talk a big game but don’t deliver against them. This will quickly backfire and start demotivating your team if you are one to make promises (ie salary, involvement, progression, will get back to you, etc and don’t follow through). 

Similarly, having no vision, no goals and no direction leads to no focus or celebrations of wins and very uninspiring leadership. 

Ivory towers versus too close to team members 

If you are seen as ‘too cool for school’, ‘too hands off’ or not a team player, very quickly your team will find you unapproachable and find a way to build another leader in their team to go to. 

Similarly, trying to be best friends with your team can definitely backfire quickly. 

The general rule of thumb is if you would not feel comfortable providing feedback or conducting a performance discussion honestly and constructively with a team member as you are too friendly with them, you would be too close. This is sometimes the most difficult balance to get right and is perhaps the one that can get leaders into trouble.


Do you recognise yourself or any leaders you know if any of the above areas? If so, take this as an opportunity to immediately add it to your development plan or if you do not know, seek feedback from your team. 

Like I said, being a leader can be challenging but the better you get at getting the balance right on the above areas, the more effective leader you will be.