10 Annoying Leadership Habits to Avoid at All Costs

Man sitting in front of computer

Leadership is probably one of the most written about skills in business today.

In a world where, faster, better, cheaper and smarter have become the leader’s mantra it is becoming increasingly hard to ‘deliver’ whilst retaining peace of mind and equanimity.

It’s really hard to be a highly effective, respected and admired leader in a business environment that is changing faster than ever before. Great leaders understand that change isn’t simply something that happened in the past, we live in times of constant change.  The leaders we enjoy following are the ones who are very mindful of the complex, demanding and changing world we all live in. They know how to prepare and position themselves and their teams to see the changes coming and to handle them with ease and grace.

Learning from the mistakes others have made before us can be a very effective way of ensuring we don’t make the same ones.

Having spent most of my career in senior leadership roles with some of the UK’s most successful brands it’s time to share some of the most annoying leadership habits I have personally experienced over the past 30 years.

Habit 1 – ‘Thanks Buddy’

I once had a boss who insisted on calling everyone his ‘buddy’.  As a term of endearment that doesn’t sound like a bad habit I know. In fact, I’m sure many would welcome the idea of their boss seeing them as his ‘buddy’.  It only becomes a problem when it is perceived as a ‘mindless’ throwaway gesture which is used so glibly it sounds patronising instead of sincere.

Solution –  Forget ‘buddy’ use their name instead. “There is nothing sweeter than the sound of one’s own name.” Dale Carnegie

 Habit 2 – What else?

Imagine the following scenario for a moment. Every time you have any form of meeting or discussion with your boss regardless of the topic or time you spend together she ends the discussion with the question, ‘what else? Even if there is nothing else to say she waits for you to come up with something just to answer the question and when you’ve finished speaking she once again asks ‘what else?’

Sometimes there isn’t anything else and you just need to trust that you will be told if there is.

Solution – Thank them for their time and remind them your door is always open if there is ‘anything else’.

Habit 3 – It’s all in the eyes

I believe that one of the simplest yet greatest gifts we can give to a fellow human being when in a conversation with them is eye contact. I have worked with several leaders over the years whose eyes remained firmly on their computer screen as I spoke. On many occasions I was seeking their advice on an issue of the utmost importance yet their screen was still the most important thing in the room.

Solution – Stop what you are doing and give them your undivided attention and be sure to look at them.

“It’s hard to hold a conversation with people when you’re not seeing them.” Dale Ludwig

Habit 4Monday mornings

The weekend has passed so quickly after such a long and arduous week at work. You were only just beginning to unwind and there it goes again your alarm clock reminding you it’s Monday morning and time to head back to the office.

You arrive early in anticipation of another week ahead and the only thing you are dreading is your weekly 9.30am management team meeting with the boss. The first thing you have to do every Monday morning for 3 hours is let your boss know exactly what happened last week and what will be happening this week.

In terms of timing alone it’s inappropriate, unnecessary and painful.

Solution – Choose another day; let them get back to work.

“Employers are at their happiest on Mondays. Employees are at their happiest on Fridays.” Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Habit 5 – Phantom of the office

I’ve had a few bosses that I very rarely saw. These were the types who when they were around spoke openly and passionately about how ‘important their staff are’ but made no effort to demonstrate it.  On the odd occasion they were physically present they seemed mentally absent. They would use the little time they were around their staff to speak about themselves rather than learning more about their people and what was going on in the business.

To add insult to injury, when there was a major problem at work and you really needed their help they became even more aloof.

Solution – Spend time with your staff and get to know them, they will thank and respect you for it. Don’t hide away when there is a problem.

Habit 6 – Can’t get a haircut

I once made a very big mistake at work. In preparation for the office Christmas party I popped out of the office to get my haircut. When I returned I found my boss with his sleeves rolled up causing chaos in my department. In the time it took me to get my haircut he had team leaders and staff completely stressed out running around the office changing things.

As you can imagine I didn’t need to go for a haircut for that to happen. He was constantly on the phone or sitting next to me ‘helping’.

Solution – Don’t suffocate them. Help, support, encourage and inspire them but let them get on with it.

“People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives. “Theodore Roosevelt

Habit 7 – The voice of doom

Most professionals tend to only call their boss to share some important information, ask a question or to get some help and advice. When they do they would like to be greeted with a kindly tone and not one that makes you dread making the call.

I’ve had bosses who were perfectly good leaders and pleasant people who had the telephone manners of a goat. They sounded so gruff that I wished I had never made the call and couldn’t wait to end it. It wasn’t who they were it was just the way they answered and spoke on the telephone.

The problem was that no one wanted to make the call.

Solution – If you want them to talk to you be nice on the phone.

Habit 8 – Talking too much

One of my personal pet hates is when I’m standing to present to my boss and he constantly interrupts and talks over the points I want to and am about to make. I’ve often left a meeting or presentation feeling undervalued and disrespected where it felt clear that it was only what my boss had to say that was important.

Solution – “First, let me finish. Then interrupt.” Brian Spellman

Habit 9 Let’s ‘button down the risks’

‘Think outside the box’

‘Let’s ‘button down the risks’

‘ I may have a window for you’

‘Let’s take this offline’

‘Make it happen’

‘Move the needle’

‘Let’s give 110%’

‘Touch base’

‘Low hanging fruit’

Solution – Ditch the management speak and talk normally; without the jargon.

“Jargon is a sure sign that intelligence has lost its way.”  –Marty Rubin

Habit 10 – The customer isn’t always right

Do you remember that customer complaint you handled a while back where you listened emphatically to the customer, responded courteously and professionally and did everything you could to appease them? You went out of your way to help them but in the knowledge that on this occasion they were wrong and you couldn’t give them exactly what they wanted. They escalated their complaint to your team leader, then the manager and still not getting their way they went all the way to the top.

As soon as they reached the executive floor they gave them everything they wanted.

Solution – When you know the customer really isn’t right don’t go for the easy option in just giving them what they want. Doing so sends a very clear message to your entire team that you don’t value and respect their judgement and efforts.

If you are guilty of at least one of these bad habits then the good news is that just by acknowledging, accepting and owning it you are on your way stopping it. There are plenty more where these came from and if you’d like to share your most annoying ones please feel free to do so in the comments section.

I started this article by stating that a great deal has been written about leadership which many would argue is the most important skill in the world today. That doesn’t of course make it easier to be a great leader but learning from the mistakes so many others have made before us can go a long way to setting us on the right path.

I really hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please feel free to share it through your preferred social media channels below and subscribe to our mailing list so you won’t miss any future posts.

If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your leadership skills are you may want to take a look at our leadership training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

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  • Sean Simpson
    Posted on 25th September 2016 at 5:58 pm

    When I was a teenager working in a grocery store at the customer service desk, the last point – The customer isn’t always right – was a major point during training. It was refreshing to hear a company actually say and believe it. That particular company also really empowered us to make decisions that wouldn’t need approval. For example, if a refund was under $5, we were told to process it, even if we knew it was outside of the policy or the customer was taking advantage. They told us that it isn’t money out of our pockets personally and it saves everyone the frustration of escalating the transaction for approval.
    I’ve also worked places where an issue was escalated and the manager ultimately ended up doing what the customer wanted, but not before the manager told him that I had followed our policy correctly and that we would be putting a note on his customer file indicating that he knows the policy and that we would not be doing what we did again. It was nice to feel validated and like the manager was in my corner, even if what I said wasn’t the way it ended.

  • Annalee Pomonis
    Posted on 26th September 2016 at 1:11 am

    Please define leadership.

    • Maurice Decastro
      Posted on 26th September 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Here is my personal view Annalee: Leadership is the activity of serving others. Mindful leadership is cultivating the personal insight, self-awareness and compassion that arouses and equips you to inspire those you serve. It’s not about telling people what to do and how to do it; it’s about helping others to see the future then working and growing together to create it. Best wishes, Maurice

  • London Management Centre
    Posted on 28th September 2016 at 9:28 am

    Habit 5 – Phantom of the office

    This is a real issue in leadership, as a leader you must be present within your teams work environment and feel apart of the team. Granted things may be very busy for you however through correct delegation you should always find time to connect with your employees.


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