Even if you have the most enthusiastic new team leader, they are likely to fall into some bad habits. Some happen due to a lack of knowledge, others due to poor role models or changing expectations.
The key is to recognise them early so you can take the appropriate action. If you leave it too long, it will be far more difficult for them to change their ways.
Some of the more worrying habits include:
- Avoiding the tough decisions
The poor leader is often guilty of avoiding tough decisions such as reducing staffing numbers in a slow economy, removing people from roles they are not suited to or discontinuing practices that no longer serve the needs of the team. Each time a leader fails to act, it can lead to damage that can be expensive and time consuming to fix.
- Getting stuck in the details
It is very easy for new frontline leaders to get caught up in the details and forget about the real purpose of their role. Remember, they are undergoing a number of mindset shifts. When you find them fussing over the small details, remind them it is called 'micro-managing' not 'micro-leading' for a reason. The same is true of the frontline leader who refuses to delegate. Some do it because they enjoy those tasks, and others because they don't trust their team members. Whatever the reason, the result is the same: a leader who is spending too much time focused on the wrong tasks.
- Not learning from their mistakes
The person who doesn't learn from these mistakes is doomed to repeat them. Whilst mistakes made by frontline leaders can vary, the results of not learning from them are the same. An inexperienced leader can waste a lot of time dealing with issues that arise from their inability to learn important lessons. Often it is pride that gets in the way or some misguided belief that a leader must never show weaknesses.
- Taking all the accolades
Any leader who believes that they alone deserve the credit for the performance of a team member is deluded. People want to perform. The leader's role is to create an environment to allow that to happen. They need to learn how to honour their people rather than attempt to claim the victory as their own. Leaders who delude themselves into thinking that their people only perform as a result of their actions do not last long.
- Trying to be popular
Being a frontline leader is not a popularity contest. It is about creating a sustainable and productive team that meets its objectives. Leaders who make decisions based on what will make them popular will soon find that they can never keep everyone happy.
- Acting territorial
The concept of being part of a leadership team can be a foreign concept to some new leaders. They are only interested in protecting and furthering the interests of their team. This will range from the overt to the covert. It creates a silo mentality in the organisation where divisions start working against each other. You want them to care about their team but not become so territorial that they create divisions in the organisation.
- Sabotaging change
The leader who wants to see the status quo maintained, usually because it benefits them or they fear their lack of skill will be shown up in the process, will take extreme steps to derail change. Being critical of change should be encouraged but only if it leads to better change, not if the intention is sabotage.
- Playing politics
Making decisions that further their career rather than the needs of the organisation, siding with more senior leaders even when they disagree with their decisions or withholding information are just some of the games that the political leader can play, even when they are at the frontline. This is the person who relies on their ability to manipulate rather than their skills as a leader to get them ahead.
Dealing with the bad habits of frontline leaders is often an equally tricky task, one that some more senior leaders avoid to their detriment. It should definitely not be done in the name of conformity or for leaders to appear to be doing the right thing.
The benefits of regularly pruning bad behaviours at an early stage in a new leader's development include:
- Stop bad habits spreading to others including current and future leaders and team members
- Direct their attention to the behaviours you want to reinforce
- Allow the leader to be balanced in the way they approach their role, spending the right amount of time on the right activities
- Encourage the leader to grow personally and professionally