Updated from May 16, 2015 post
I’m connecting with leaders in Australia this week, and today a question came up that goes to the heart of authentic leadership.
A sharp leader asked, “What character traits are the biggest obstacles for leaders to overcome?”
In response, I pointed back to an insight shared by Bill Hybels earlier this year, where he underscored two deadly leadership characteristics.
In a coaching session in Brazil, Bill talked about two qualities in leaders that will chase people away.
1. “People can’t stand dishonesty in their leader.”
As Bill talked about this, in my own notes I jotted down that the real danger is rarely in the telling of bald-face lies. For most leaders dishonesty seeps in through the most subtle of statements and actions. Some of the most common include:
- Chronic lateness
- “I’ll meet you tomorrow at 9:00 am.” Then you show up at 9:10.
- Some leaders will dismiss their chronic tardiness as a reflection merely of their demanding schedule. But it ultimately communicates dishonesty.
- Consistent lack of follow-through
- “I’ll call you next week.” And no call is made.
- When you consistently fail to follow through on even the smallest of commitments people come to doubt any commitment you make.
- Unmitigated hyperbole
- “That was the best service/meeting/idea EVER!” But everyone knows it was really quite average.
- As I’ve written previously, exaggeration and hyperbole are deadly forms of dishonesty for leaders.
2. “People can’t stand arrogance in their leader.”
Here I wrote down that such arrogance usually reveals itself in the smallest, but deadliest, forms of subtle behavior and speech.
- “I’m kinda embarrassed by this double-digit growth under my leadership…”
- As I’ve written before, your people can sniff out such arrogance in a nanosecond.
- Spotlight stealing
- An infuriating form of arrogance is found in the leader who must make themselves the focal point of attention.
- When you hog all the positive attention for yourself you drive your people further into the shadows.
- The White-Knight complex
- Implicitly, or explicitly, some leaders make it sound like they had ridden in on a stallion and had single-handedly rescued the organization from certain doom.
- People withdraw their support from such leaders.
Consider using this checklist to form your own character audit.
Because if you can catch these indicators when they’re relatively small, you can avoid a full-blown character crisis later on.
How do you prevent these character crises from seeping into your leadership?