Leaders can hurt their leadership by their actions, attitudes or lack of emotional intelligence. In my experience, the following attitudes or practices often cause leaders to lose influence and hurt their leadership.
Complain about their board members
Bad move. First it violates board "rules of engagement," second it will get back to those you complain about and it will destroy trust with those board members and you. I recently heard of a pastor who was actually complaining about a board member of his to staff at another church and it came back to bite him and caused great distress for that board member (as it should) and destroyed any trust that was there. If one needs a healthier board or has issues with a board member, work through the issues on the board but never complain about your board members to others. Just as you would not want them to do that about you.This occurs when a leader blames the board for decisions that they or their staff do not like. Wait! The leader is part of that board that made the decision. In fact it is his/her senior team so to blame them is simply not to take responsibility for decisions that they made. In our organization we call this Leadership Default! Any time a leader blames the board for a decision whether subtly or outright he divides the board and the staff and creates an unhealthy us verses them mentality.
Create an "us versus them" mentality
Create an "us versus them" mentality
Take credit for success
Blame others for failure
Fail to regularly thank volunteers and staff
Don't develop their staff
One of the top priorities of leaders is to develop those who work for them, to help them become all that they can be in line with how God has gifted and wired them. Why is it foolish not to develop staff or volunteers? Because the success of the organization depends directly on how good our staff are, how well they understand their wiring and strengths and how they are deployed in their sweet spot. And it is what Jesus did with His disciples, and it is what He wants us to do with others (Ephesians 4:12). Leaders who do not develop others do not understand leadership, or think that it is all about them.
Don't set clear expectations
When staff don't know what is truly expected of them, they are in a no win situation. If they move ahead on something and show initiative but it is the wrong initiative (the senior leader was not clear on boundaries) they get dinged. Much staff frustration revolves around unclear expectations or expectations that change unexpectedly - usually because the senior leader is not clear either. Clarity for all is a gift. Lack of clarity is a curse. The number one job of leaders is to communicate clarity for his/her team. The number two job of leaders is to ensure that that missional clarity is delivered on.
Criticize staff in front of others
This is one of the most disempowering and dishonoring things a leader can do. There are certainly times when staff need direct and honest feedback but praise should be public and criticism should be private. It is a matter of honor and respect. Staff rarely resent honest feedback in private but will remember it for a long time if done publicly.
Dictate rather than collaborate
I have a friend who thinks that leadership means telling other people what to do! That is rarely good leadership. Rather, leaders build teams, empower people to use their gifts and wisdom and create a collaborative environment where the team functions together under good leadership. Leaders who dictate, or micromanage do not understand the nature of leadership and will not find or keep quality staff.
Treat staff carelessly
Every interaction with staff carries with it a message of respect, disrespect, appreciation or lack of it. It is easy for leaders to treat these relationships carelessly since they have authority. They expect respect but don't always convey it and there is not much staff can do when they don't receive it. Every interaction that is careless, harsh, unkind or sharp costs a leader coinage with staff. Wise leaders treat others the way the desire to be treated.
Ultimately when we do these dumb things we hurt the organization and the staff who work for us. Every once in a while it pays to take a step back and honestly evaluate the quality of our leadership - and perhaps even ask our staff how we are doing.
TJ Addington has a passion to help individuals and organizations go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org