The five worst leadership traits and how to avoid them

For some, being in charge of a company is the ultimate career goal. In the start-up world, many creators and inventors fancy themselves as inspirational leaders, but not all entrepreneurs do well steering the ship.

Here are five terrible leadership traits, and what you can do to avoid them.

Stealing ideas and passing them off as your own

Good leaders turn down credit, and pick up blame - they know they are the face of the organisation and will strive to implement change as a result. They will totally get what is needed to move on from a mistake more than a junior colleague. A good leader will understand that coming up with a great idea is a collective effort. Carl Bennet, credited with turning around Getinge AB, a medical-technology company, said he had his team to thank for the turnaround. The company is valued at more than one hundred times its purchase price, but Bennet still said: "Anyone could have done it. It was a great company just waiting for somebody to care about it."

Not listening

"When I’m speaking, I’m not learning," says  Peter Hill, CEO of Billy Casper Golf management company. Some leaders really like the sound of their own voice, and these aren’t good leaders. As well as using up valuable work time talking, not listening means missing suggestions or ideas that could improve the direction of a company.

Having an open-door approach, or an open-plan office, where employees can chat about their concerns or ideas is crucial. Leaders need to hear what people on the floor are thinking, so they know whether morale is high or not. Poor leaders just don’t make the time to hear their employee’s concerns. They spend their time rushing between meetings, and seem unapproachable. Although impressive, it doesn’t suggest a nurturing and supportive environment.

Telling employees off

"When my boss shouts at me, it makes we want to crawl into a ball and die. I don’t want to come back into the office, and I don’t want to do better - I just want to run," said Amy G, who works for an angry boss at a start-up in central London.

She loves her work, but is stymied by how quick her boss is to anger. "Does he expect us to learn by humiliating us?" She adds that after every public outburst he has returned apologetically, but the damage is already done. If you know you’re an angry person, take a step back. Firstly, consider why, if you don’t trust your employees, did you hire them in the first place? Secondly, consider why you’re lashing out. If you feel fearful or insecure, then work through company issues rather than aiming anger at employees.

Read: Being a Virgin leader - what does it take?

Working too much (and making everyone else in the company feel like they have to follow suit)

Remember in job interviews when the interviewer used to ask what your biggest weakness was and you’d say "working too hard?" Sounded cringey at the time, but actually, it’s a big problem. As a leader you set an example. If you’re working 24/7, other people will want to follow your lead and do the same which can create an office with bad work/life balance, and an exhausted workforce. Burnout could be just around the corner, so, instead, set a good example. Set clear boundaries between work and play, and if you do need to do extra work, maybe do it out of the office. Replying to employee’s emails at the weekend shows diligence, but could also make them wonder if they need to be plugged in too.

No clear strategy

Having no clear strategy is common among start-ups. It’s easy to get caught up with the excitement of starting out, or getting funded. It’s much harder to figure out not just the end goal, but how you will get there. Gather everyone together and listen to where they think the company is going - don’t rely on yourself to always make the best call. Being a leader means listening, strategizing, and communicating transparently. Ask people for their opinion often, and work out how you want to move forward before presenting your plan to the company.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Please see for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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