Do You Recognise the 5 Early Warning Signs of Ineffective Leadership?

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Early Warning

Your leadership qualities are the first, and perhaps lasting, impression you make on people. Get things wrong and you’re likely to derail your chances of ever leading a high performance team.

Why? Because your behaviour is the biggest obstacle to achieving great things. Leadership skills alone won’t get you where you need to be.

It is character — your leadership qualities — that matter.

So, let’s take a closer look at 5 early warning signs of ineffective leadership. Let’s equip ourselves with the leadership qualities needed to improve team performance.

5 Early Warning Signs of Ineffective Leadership

You may think you know what to do. But leadership isn’t just about doing. It’s also about who we are.

Use these early warning signs … and I stress early because it’s never to late to learn … to change your beliefs, behaviours and personality.

Let’s begin.

1. Are you visible, but unavailable?

So, you lead people? I guess you’ll know the names of employees … and a little about their personal lives too? Perhaps you practice management by walking around?

Sounds like you’re popular with the team. But are you?

The thing is, this is not enough. You need to make yourself available to the team.

Being there doesn’t motivate the team. Being there doesn’t improve team performance.

But committing to spend time with the team does. Successful leaders meet the team … in their time and on their terms.

So, be available for them.

Be intent on setting time aside to meet each employee at set times every month. That’s when the team gets to know you. That’s when the team sees who you really are. This is where you earn respect.

2. Do you give answers rather than guide the team?

The team is there to solve problems. The team there to find the best ways of doing things.

Do you tell the team what to do? Or, jump in feet first and share an opinion?

This isn’t a leadership quality you want. Really. In fact, it’s a sure-fire way to sap motivation and stop creativity and innovation.

Giving answers says: I don’t value your opinion.

Successful leaders take time to understand an issue or problem. Then they ask coaching questions to find the best way forward. Successful leaders ask the team: What do you think?

3. Do you practice communication, but not openness?

Here’s an interesting fact.

One of the most popular complaints employees make about their manager is a lack of communication. Why is this?

Well, here lies the conundrum. Communication is rarely expressed clearly. Communication is often ambiguous.

Yet, many leaders inundate the team with information. Employees are showered with email, briefings, documents and so on. Is that good communication?

No, it’s not!

Whether you realise this or not, all communication elicits a response. So, next time you flood your team with email pause to think about the reaction. What’s does this say about you?

Different people need different information.

 The successful leader does two things:

  • they communicate with purpose, and
  • practice a policy of openness.

Next time you communicate with the team think of the response you get. Is it what you expect? Now do you understand the purpose of communication?

On the other hand, openness concerns your values and beliefs. Openness happens when the team knows they can come to you about anything without fear.

4. Are you mistaking position for power?

What do you say? My team? Or, the team?

Successful leaders accept they work for the team.

Leadership in teams concerns the success of others. It’s about team cohesion and team performance. But it’s never about your achievement.

If you lean on your job title or position you’re a weak leader.

5. Do you put popularity ahead of respect?

You’ve probably read this popular quote from Peter Drucker: Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

But what does it mean?

Quite simply, leadership can be a lonely place. Leadership is taking responsibility … and making those tough decisions. It’s not about popularity.

Leaders learn that respect is earned. And loyalty built.

It is character — your leadership qualities — that matter.

And so it seems, we have come full circle.

Sounds like you’re popular with the team. But are you?

Want to know more about leading teams?

Great. But can I ask what you’ve been doing up to date?
Creative Commons image courtesy Bill Gracey.

Last updated 20 June, 2015 8 CommentsShare the knowledge …


  1. says

    Once again an excellent article, perspective, and message. Too good not to take an opportunity to thank you for your contributions toward facilitative leadership.

  2. says

    Great post. I’d include that if a leader’s attitude starts becoming bad or negative it.s a sign they are burning out or becoming ineffective.

    • says

      Hello Dan, Thanks for the feedback. I’d love to learn more about this. Are you talking about a good leader turned bad or something else? As with all things, there’s always more than one side to an argument. As ever, Martin

  3. Linda Narbeth says

    Thank you Martin for such a good article on Leadership – communication is one of the most important skills of good leadership but some leaders don’t always understanding what real leadership communication means – you have made it very clear in this post.



    • says

      Hello Linda, Yes, you are correct. There is much more to communication. Communication is not simply conveying information. Rather, it is considering the action you want as a result of communication. As I say, communication is the response it elicits. As ever, Martin


  1. […] Do You Recognize the 5 Early Warning Signs of Ineffective Leadership? by Martin Webster. Leadership in teams isn’t just about doing. It’s also about who we are. Use these early warning signs to change your beliefs, behaviours and personality. […]

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