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5 Signs That Instantly Identify Someone With Bad Leadership Skills

By Marcel SchwantesFounder and Chief Human Officer, Leadership From the Core

Whenever I speak at events across the country, I break down leadership to its most basic and practical form: It's about meeting the needs of people and developing them to their fullest potential.

When employees don't get the tools, training, time, development, expectations, vision, or resources they need to do their jobs well, they experience low morale; they stop caring and they stop trying, unfortunately, as early as the first few weeks on the job.

Not every person in a management role is created equal. If I may be candid, some have no business being in the role of influencing others.

When the rubber meets the road, these are five of the most common toxic management behaviors I've encountered over the years. 

1. Narcissistic tendencies.

In its extreme form, this is unfortunate for both manager and employee. For the manager, it's an actual mental condition known as narcissistic personality disorder that requires medical attention.

For employees, pathologically narcissistic managers could ruin their careers. Joseph Burgo, author of The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Agesays this person "often relies on contempt to make others feel like losers, proving himself a winner in the process. He will belittle your work product or ridicule you at meetings. When he needs something from you, he may become threatening. At his most toxic, he will make you doubt yourself and your ultimate value to your employer."

2. Not recognizing their people for good work.

Don't underestimate the power that comes from recognizing high performers who are intrinsically motivated. In fact, Gallup has surveyed more than four million employees worldwide on this topic. They found that people who receive regular recognition and praise:

  • increase their individual productivity.

  • increase engagement among their colleagues.

  • are more likely to stay with their organization.

  • receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers.

  • have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job.

3. Treat people like numbers.

In top-down power structures, employees are viewed as worker bees and considered to be objects or expenses rather than assets; there is little concern for their happiness or well-being, since the motive for hiring them was purely productivity and profit.

In these environments, there's little evidence of leaders' displaying compassion and empathy in seeing employees as valued human beings. As a result, you'll encounter high levels of stress, turnover, absenteeism, and burnout.

4. Too much control.

A manager that micromanages is a control freak. The work environment they create is overbearing and stifling because he or she wants control over all decisions. This manager distrusts the team, so tasks rarely get delegated to others. Typically, you'll find there's hardly room for group discussion or input because the management style is autocratic, which limits creativity and desire to learn new things. 

Loyal workers trying to find meaning and purpose in their jobs are left with nothing but marching orders. It may be time to update your resume under such conditions.

5. Not sharing information.

A leading cause of turnover -- when done repeatedly -- is hoarding information, or a lack of personal and organizational transparency on the manager's part. Again, this is the behavior of a manager on a power trip, and it's the kind of leader employees never trust.

If you've read Patrick Lencioni's masterpiece The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, you know the foundation for any good relationship is trust -- it's the foundation for his pyramid model -- and that foundation simply cannot happen without transparency at work.

As a result, employees working for managers who openly share information will work harder for them, respect them more, be more innovative, and solve problems much faster.

Final thoughts.

Retaining your best people and engaging them at a high level comes down to how you treat and serve them. To do this well, it's critical to connect to them in a relational way, help them grow, and give them what they need to succeed. 

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