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15 Signs of Ineffective Leadership (And How to Fix It) - HRDQ

15 Signs of Ineffective Leadership (And How to Fix It)

Being a leader is a great responsibility. While even the most successful leaders will make mistakes and encounter moments of failure, an ineffective leader is currently unable to use their responsibility to produce results in an organization.

There are many reasons a person might be ineffective as a leader– both internal and external.

Some of the internal factors that can influence a person's ability to be an effective leader include lacking communication skills, lacking vision, a lack of experience, wrongful use of power, or displaying character traits that are poorly suited to playing the role of a leader.

External factors, on the other hand, can include issues within the larger organization that limit an individual's ability to take leadership in their specific department and make positive changes in the business.

Luckily, individuals can work to correct ineffective leadership and become a leader that creates positive results, motivates their team, and inspires productivity in the workplace.

1. Poor Performance

There are many reasons that teams might perform poorly, but it typically boils down to ineffective leadership in one form or another. A team needs direction to know what goals they should be working to meet, let alone meet them.

Poor Performing Team

How to fix it: If you aren't performing well as a leader or your team isn't performing well, it's time to step back and assess the situation. What are the factors that are leading to this outcome? What can you do as a leader to better steer the ship?

Understanding your leadership style can be incredibly valuable in helping to correct the adverse outcomes of ineffective leadership, such as poor performance.

2. Communication Issues

When there are communication problems in the office, it can be a sign of ineffective leadership. That might mean the leader exhibits poor listening skills, uses unprofessional language, or has a hard time communicating with their staff.

It can also mean that there are communication issues between employees. It is a part of a leader's role to help their team understand the proper methods of communication and how information is passed between individuals in the organization. If there is no structure or set of expectations in this way, it can lead to miscommunication, mistakes, and conflict, not to mention inefficiency and a loss of productivity.

Team Communication Issues

How to fix it: Communication skills in the office are essential for a business to function seamlessly. You might consider using a DISC model personality style assessment that helps you better understand communication styles and improve your skills.

3. Under-Developed Employees

If your employees aren't growing in their roles over time, it could point to ineffective leadership.

Under Developed Employees

How to fix it: It's possible that tasks aren't being delegated properly, with some employees receiving work above their pay grade and others focused on tasks that aren't stimulating or challenging enough.

Look at your team and consider them each individually. How are they performing, and how has their performance improved over time? Does your team have factors that motivate them to grow in their roles and develop, or are they incentivized to run out the clock every day and never go above and beyond?

4. A Closed-Minded Boss

A team can't grow if a leader is closed-minded to new perspectives. This can discourage employees from offering their ideas and fully engaging with the organization. After all, what's the point in trying if their proposals are constantly being shut down?

Employee Offering Ideas

How to fix it: If you're struggling with being more open-minded, it's probably a good time to take a step back and look at the big picture. Doing so can let you refocus on your organization's goals and give you the willingness to entertain new ideas when they crop up rather than dismissing them out the gate.

5. Constant Micromanaging

An important part of a boss is delegating tasks to the right people at the right time. When done right, you don't have to watch over your employees' shoulders like a hawk. You can trust them to do what needs to be done effectively and efficiently.

Leader Micromanaging a Task

How to fix it: Micromanaging can have a seriously negative effect on your team's morale. If you are struggling with the urge to micromanage constantly, there are several steps you can take. These include auditing your delegation system and seeing if you need to make changes, setting clear expectations among your team, hiring the right people for the right roles, and working to overcome a need for perfectionism.

6. High Employee Turnover

Are employees constantly going through the onboarding process only to give their notice a few months later? There are a lot of potential causes of high turnover in the workplace, but ineffective leadership is undoubtedly a big one.

Employee Quitting Job

How to fix it: This will require a thorough audit of the organization and what is causing people to look for opportunities elsewhere. If you believe it results from ineffective leadership, a great place to start would be to create an open forum for employees to give feedback about their experiences.

7. Frequent In-Office Conflicts

There are always going to be conflicts in life and business. If in-office tension is constant and inescapable, though, it points to potentially ineffective leadership.

In Office Conflict

How to fix it: The first step to overcoming this obstacle is to brush up on your conflict resolution skills and help your team learn them. This Team Conflict Strategies Inventory can help your employees harness the lessons and potential from disagreements and improve their conflict resolution skills.

8. No One's Allowed to Make Mistakes

Creating a work environment where no one is allowed to make mistakes can have disastrous results for an organization. When a leader is hyperfocused on perfection, it can mean that countless teachable moments are lost, and unrealistic workloads are created.

How to fix it: Effective leaders recognize that mistakes are where lessons are learned. On top of that, they see that frequent mistakes among their team point to leadership problems rather than an inadequate staff.

Employee Punished For A Mistake

Instead of focusing on perfection, take time to focus on how you are delegating work and consider whether all tasks are being handed over to the right departments and individuals. Take a look at the processes at your workplace and consider whether they can be changed to create a better performance outcome.

If the same mistakes are made repeatedly, step back and consider what can be done to ensure that errors are reduced and workflow is smooth and efficient.

Additionally, it's a good idea to create a welcoming place for feedback where your team can offer input. There is a ton of potential waiting in mistakes if you are willing to do the work to find it and put it to use.

9. Quick to Blame Others

One extremely negative quality of any leader is a willingness to always place the blame everywhere other than on themselves.

When employees are constantly showing up late, an ineffective leader blames the employees themselves and believes there is nothing they can do to change the situation. Maybe they fire the employees and hire new ones, only to have the new team exhibit the same behavior.

An effective leader, on the other hand, will see the role that they play in the actions of their employees.

One employee that refuses to show up on time repeatedly despite warnings about their behavior might indicate a bad fit at the organization. An entire workforce that doesn't respect the need to come to work on time points to a leader unwilling or unable to effectively discipline their team and set ground rules with firm consequences. Additionally, it points to a negative company culture, where individuals aren't excited or motivated to come to work in the morning.

Leader Blaming Employee

How to fix it: If you struggle with constantly placing blame on others, it's a good idea to step back and examine your role in the organization. What is your responsibility and what isn't? Are you willing to admit your fault when the same issue repeatedly emerges on your team?

Taking responsibility is a leadership quality that can certainly be learned. By displaying to your team that you are willing to admit that you've made a mistake or own up to your share of responsibility for a problem, you'll find that it will increase your employees' trust in your leadership and improve the company culture.

10. A Lack of Vision

Leaders who don't have a vision cannot create value, motivate performance, or inspire their employees. Leadership is ineffective when there isn't a clearly communicated picture of the direction of the team and organization.

How to fix it: In the words of the ancient Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, "If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable."

Unmotivated Team Member

Your organization needs to have a clear sense of direction to be successful. Whether you're a business owner or the manager of a small team, creating a shared vision is essential for providing focus, purpose, and motivation to your team.

If you feel that you suffer from a lack of vision, it could be that the organization's overarching goals haven't been communicated to you by your hire-ups. In this case, you will want to work on clarifying the mission and direction of your business so that you can best direct your team.

On the other hand, it could be that you need to search within yourself and create a vision that can serve as a roadmap for your team.

11. An Unwillingness to Leave Their Comfort Zone

If a leader is unwilling to change the status quo, it doesn't bode well for the organization. No matter what industry you're in, there's a good chance it is constantly in flux and evolving. You don't just have to keep up with a shifting landscape, but you have to be ahead of the wave.

How to fix it: The most successful leaders always focus on keeping their team and organization dynamic, fresh, and growing. They understand that their business isn't static and are eager to be an industry leader when it comes to innovation and change.

A Business Leader

If you are struggling with this aspect of leadership, you can do several things to help leave your comfort zone and lead your team to success. If you feel this is a personal issue that needs to be dealt with, you can start by challenging yourself in your free time to do things that scare you a little.

In the office, start taking positive steps towards change that will help to produce positive results. Even if it's just setting up a chatbot service for your website or trying out a new piece of software that is better able to meet your needs, learn to look around the organization and consider whether things could be improved through change and innovation.

12. Forgetting About the Consumer

When a business doesn't view its customers as a priority, there is a problem with leadership. Of course, being a leader requires an individual to juggle many balls at once. That being said, an organization that has lost sight of the central importance of the consumer has lost sight of its fundamental purpose.

Business Shopping Cart

How to fix it: Forgetting about the consumer clearly indicates that the goals, vision, and purpose of an organization or team need to be revisited. Fixing this problem doesn't have to be complicated; it's just a matter of stepping back and reframing your role as a leader in relation to the end consumer.

Take a look at what could be changed to provide a better experience for the customer and what future needs you could anticipate and meet.

13. Possessing Ineffective Traits

Leaders that are controlling, aggressive, impolite, pessimistic, or otherwise convey negative personality traits will likely be ineffective in the workplace. A leader must ensure they are inspiring and motivating, not creating resentment and dissatisfaction.

Aggressive Team Leader

How to fix it: It can be easy to pick up bad habits in life, and overcoming negative traits like the ones listed above takes practice. The first step is self-awareness. To work to fix this problem, listen to yourself when you speak to your employees and consider whether any of your personality characteristics are having a negative outcome on performance and morale.

14. The Boss Is MIA

A team needs to see that a leader is just as invested in reaching the organization's goals as they are. If a boss is only making an appearance occasionally to delegate tasks and is otherwise MIA, it can be just as harmful to productivity and morale as micromanaging.

Uninvested Team Leader

How to fix it: Work to find ways that you can connect with your team. Talk to them about how you can best support them in their efforts. Doing this can help to establish rapport and build trust. It's essential that your team knows that you are working just as hard and just as committed as they are.

15. The Team Is Far Too Quiet

When employees aren't bringing problems to the attention of their boss and aren't asking questions, it isn't usually a good sign. It's not that issues aren't cropping up and that they don't need clarification– it usually means that they are wary of communicating with their team leader for one reason or another.

A Team Meeting

How to fix it: Ensure your team's communication lines are 100% open and that individuals feel encouraged to ask questions or tell you about problems. It can take time to overcome a culture of silence, but it is certainly possible.

To help improve the leadership in your organization, take a look at our collection of leadership training products. Additionally, if you ever have questions regarding leadership in your organization, please feel free to leave them below! We make it a point to reply to every comment and question we receive, and we'd love to help you out however we can!

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.