Leadership traits damaging your business without you even realising it

by | Feb 26, 2020

I’ve worked with and spoken to many business owners and leaders whose businesses aren’t quite where they’d want them to be. 

Feeling frustrated, confused, overwhelmed and exasperated, these wonderfully passionate people tell me they’re doing everything they can to make their company a success and can’t see what the underlying problem is.  They’re faced with a negative working environment, low productivity, high staff turnover. Or it might not be so bad, yet they sense that things at work could be better for them and their staff.

So together we delve a bit deeper and find out what the root causes are.  And this is what I have been finding …

Some common traits displayed by CEO’s and company founders, despite coming from a good and well-meaning place, are having a negative impact on their workplace culture and staff.

I’ve listed four of these key characters below and offer some practical advice to help negate the impact.

See if you recognise yourself in any of these … because the first step towards effective change is, of course, awareness!


The Person with the Passion

You established your business on the back of an idea that you’re immensely passionate about and believe in.  You’re dedicated to your business and work like a trojan. Your mission is compelling and you don’t understand why others don’t seem as committed as you.  You feel a bit resentful that others don’t work as hard as you, or place other things as a priority over their work.

It can look like:

Long working hours; always being ‘on’; answering emails late into the day; not taking days off; being frazzled; you having high demands and expectations of others; you being involved in everything.

How it feels to others:

They’re never good enough; they’ve a lot to live up to; you demand too much of them; you’re pushy; you don’t trust them; they don’t understand why you don’t take a break and enjoy a balanced life more fully, like they do; presenteeism is the expectation, but it should be about outputs and outcomes.

How to channel your passion: 
  • Share inspiring company updates about the company history, its progress and vision in presentations, blogs, newsletters or however suits your style
  • Share your passion during interviews to attract the right people for your business
  • Take breaks and time away from the office to work on your business, not in your business – your mind needs a break to lead a business well.
  • Meditate to calm your busy mind 
  • Intentionally look to appreciate and recognise those working for you because they contribute to your business success today.  A simple thank you goes a long way.


The Loather of Letting Go

You started this business from scratch and find it hard to let go.  You love being involved in every element of your business (or think you should be!).  You feel a responsibility to oversee everything, or feel bad about letting others take responsibility.  You don’t know what to let go of.

It can look like:

Micromanagement; others not volunteering to get involved because you’ll take over; limited idea generation; lack of efficiency. 

How it feels to others:

Mistrust; a lack of opportunity to develop; stifling; controlling; frustrating.

How to let go:
  • Make a list of what you’re good at and enjoy, and then another list of things you don’t like or aren’t good at.  Delegate (or ditch!) the things on the second list to others in your business. Find someone who is great at and will enjoy these activities and it’s a win-win situation.
  • See delegation as a gift to others.  It’s a way of building skills and knowledge across your business if you let go.  Give them the outcome you’re after, criteria to meet and then let them work out the best way to deliver what you’re asking.  It’s hugely empowering for both parties!
  • Work on your own mindset and self-confidence.  Often when I dig deep in this scenario, a reluctance to let go is because the leader fears being judged (by others or themselves).  


The Inspiring Introvert

You want to realise your passion, not manage the people needed to get there.  Perhaps your success has been unexpected and you never thought your company would grow like this. You label yourself a natural introvert and don’t really like company meetings and dealing with staff, but know you have to.

It can look like:

Shying away from staff, especially larger group meetings. Keeping your self to yourself.  Finding comfort in getting your head into work. Having your office or desk in the corner away from most staff.  Hiding behind email or instant messenger rather than picking up the phone, taking a video call or chatting in person.

How it feels to others:

You’re not really interested in (or care …eeek!) about people, only about the work; uncomfortable large group settings; a lack of understanding about or rapport with you; intrigue about who you really are as a person.

How to channel your inspiring introvert:
  • Connect in smaller group settings or have 121s. You’ll learn so much from your people,  build relationships and keep a reality pulse check on your business in the process. 
  • Make a plan to chat with someone different every day.  People are hard-wired to be social, even introverts.
  • Make time to be alone and recover from those people related interactions, then you’ll have the energy and positive mindset to tackle being better connected with your staff.


The Good News Generator

You’re mighty proud of your business and/or a proud person.  You absolutely want this business to be a success, especially now you have the responsibility of employing people and paying their salaries.  You want others to believe in the future success of your business and help you reach those ambitions. You hate sharing bad news, avoid conflict, or are generally very optimistic or trusting.

It can look like:

Not keeping staff informed about your business because you feel there’s nothing to share or it’s not really positive news (you don’t want to worry them). Not explaining a decision you took or why you changed your mind, as if you have something to hide. Not dealing with poor performance and just hoping things will be better next time. Not involving staff in decision making or asking their opinions and feelings about work.

How it feels to others: 

Mistrusting; delusional; cliquey; frustrating; confusing; unfair.

How to be a Trusted Leader:
  • Be open and honest with company news*.  See the business challenges you face as a way of involving your staff to overcome them together – they might spot some obvious solution you hadn’t thought of.
  • Communicate regularly and if there’s nothing to share or update staff on, say so.  But only if that’s really true! They’ll fill a void in communication if you don’t and this is how rumours and mistrust begin.
  • Address performance that isn’t up to expectations in the moment.  Don’t leave it unaddressed. Explain what impact they had or why it wasn’t acceptable.  Debrief together on what could have been done differently to improve the outcome and agree next steps so the individual feels like they get clarity, support and can move forward positively.
  • Seek your employee’s opinions on what’s working, and what’s not, and gain their ideas for how to change things for the better.  I work with companies to gain these insights in a confidential and independent way so staff feel more comfortable to speak up, but you can do this yourself … hold focus groups or go out for lunch and ask them what one thing they would change about the company.

If you’d like to contact me about anything raised in this blog, or would like my independent support through my Insights & Improvement Package (specifically designed with small, growing businesses in mind) or my 1-2-1 Consultancy, then do contact me here to find out more.


*Obviously seek legal and professional advice if you are restructuring or changing your business in a way that will impact your employee’s terms or conditions of work.

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