Three Weaknesses to Avoid as Leaders

Proverbs 29:2

NIV- “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

MSG- “When good people run things, everyone is glad, but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans.”

Have you ever had a boss that makes everyone groan when he enters the room? The type of boss that, in anticipation (and fear), forces people to grip their chairs in an effort to hold on for the potential roller coaster that may ensue. I’ve heard these types of people referred to as sunshine: the instant they leave the room, everything becomes brighter again. It is my prayer that I never turn into that leader.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with and for some very good leaders in my young business career, but no one is perfect. Every leader, including you and me, has his or her strengths and weaknesses. In my leadership training, I’ve learned that it is important to emulate the strengths of leaders we admire as well as learn from their weaknesses. In the end, as leaders, no matter how hard we work we will never be perfect. However, we will only be most effective if the strengths we have outweigh the weaknesses.

Recently, I came across an article titled Five Characteristics of Weak Leaders by one of my favorite leadership authors, Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In it, he tells of a book written by Doris Kearns Goodwin called Team of Rivals which gives an account of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. While Goodwin writes about Lincoln’s overall political genius and leadership abilities, his leadership was not always perfect. During the Civil War, Lincoln appointed General George McClellan to be commander of the “Army of the Potomac”. Later, McClellan would become first general-in-chief of the Union Army. Ultimately, this ended up being the wrong decision by Lincoln.

In the article, Hyatt points out five weaknesses McClellan had: he was hesitant in taking action, complained about the lack of resources, refused to take responsibility, abused his leadership position, and engaged in acts of subordination. Based on the examples Hyatt uses to demonstrate each of McClellan’s flaws, it is easy to understand why the Union Army performed so poorly under his leadership and why he ultimately lost his job.

These are all leadership traits we want to avoid as leaders. In my own personal career, here are three more I’ve experienced:

1. Lack of consistency

This is the leader I described above. They are a roller coaster. When you see them in the morning, you wonder what kind of mood you are going to have to deal with that day. Are they going to have a Monday attitude or a Friday attitude? A rainy day attitude or a sunny and 75 degree attitude? Not only is it difficult for the leader to be effective when lacking consistency, it makes their employees’ job very difficult due when having to constantly adjust to the roller coaster of moods the leader brings to work each day.

2. The overworked

This is the “old-school” leader. A character from a TV show that comes to mind is the dad in The Wonder Years, Jack Arnold. In the show, it seems like every episode he comes home from work exhausted because he is overworked. He can’t even enjoy dinner with his family because he is so worn out, overwhelmed and stressed. This is a heart-attack waiting to happen. God makes it clear that we need to give our all in everything we do when in 1 Corinthians 10:31 it says:

“So whether we eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV)

However, it’s important to work hard but we need to play hard too. Being overworked is not healthy. We need to have balance in our lives.

On the other side of this trait, the overworked too often expect their employees to overwork. No one wants to work for a leader that overworks their employees.

3. Lack of integrity

This one is simple. A long time ago, I heard this quote, “If you lose your money, you’ve lost nothing. If you lose a friend, you’ve lost something. If you lose your word, you’ve lost everything.” Don’t ever lose your integrity. Two of our guiding values as leaders always need to be honesty and integrity. Leadership guru Brian Tracy said this, ”The glue that holds all relationships together — including the relationship between the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based on integrity.”

It is so important we learn from those like General McClellan in order to not repeat the missteps he took while in a leadership position. At the same time, it is also important we have self-awareness. Don’t fool yourself. We all have weaknesses. Focus most on your strengths but find out what the weaknesses are and work to minimize them.

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4 thoughts on “Three Weaknesses to Avoid as Leaders

  1. Kevin Winningham

    Thanks for adding to MH’s traits BH! Once again you have taken the proverbial hammer and struck the nail dead center! Thanks for your ongoing insight and practical blog posts to help your readers become better leaders by applying the timeless principles of the Book of Proverbs!

  2. great post

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