Accountable leadership is the foundation for an organization’s success. Accountable leaders get results and inspire employee loyalty, while mediocre leaders settle for ‘good enough’ and turn off top talent.
Becoming an accountable leader starts with investing in yourself. Leaders are obligated to do what’s best for their team, their customers, their colleagues, and their wider community, but most leaders still have plenty of room to take more time to focus on their own development.
Most leaders spend 40 to 80% of their time on activities that don’t add much value to the company. That time could and should be invested in personal development that will enable leaders to do their best and deliver real results.
Mediocre leaders easily get swamped in the day-to-day work of managing a team. They often:
- Get overwhelmed by challenges
- Think that being a strong leader means being hard on people
- Focus on effort, not results
- See themselves as victims when things don’t go their way
- Are afraid to speak up when things get tough
- Punish people for bringing them bad news
- Prioritize scoring a ‘win’ over doing what’s best for the company
- Put off making tough decisions in hopes that someone else will step in and make the call
- Let themselves get pushed off course by daily distractions
- Fail to learn from their mistakes
Unfortunately, in challenging times like these, it’s all too easy for even good leaders to fall back into the bad habits of poor leadership. A leader who had strong decision-making skills might begin to struggle to make tough calls; a leader who previously took responsibility for their actions might fall into a victim mentality.
What makes good leaders fall into the mediocrity trap? Sometimes they’re afraid of failure. Sometimes they’re struggling in an organization that hasn’t set clear leadership expectations. Sometimes they’re drowning in too much work and aren’t sure how to delegate.
Whatever the cause, here are five key characteristics of mediocre leadership to watch for:
- Mediocre leaders play the blame game. They never take responsibility for their own mistakes or failures or admit that they played a role in a mistake or failure by their team.
- Mediocre leaders are selfish. They’re entitled, and they focus on what’s best for them, not what’s best for the company.
- Mediocre leaders are cruel. They mistreat their direct reports and insult their colleagues, even in public.
- Mediocre leaders are incompetent. They regularly make bad decisions. They’re constantly creating disasters.
- Mediocre leaders deflect responsibility. Instead of taking initiative, they step back and let everyone else take responsibility for making decisions.
Mediocre leaders undermine employee engagement and motivation. As many as 73% of employees say they spend a great deal of their time dealing with problems their manager has created.
Sometimes, employees can band together to survive a mediocre leader. Their relationships with one another or their underlying belief in the work they’re doing may be enough to keep them motivated, at least for a while.
But eventually, poor leadership always takes its toll. One talented top performer leaves, and then the team becomes a sinking ship with high rates of turnover, as engagement craters and everyone looks for a way out.