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What Behaviors Must Leaders Avoid?

| November 4, 2013

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading is “What Behaviors Must Leaders Avoid?”.  This essay is by Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins.  It appeared earlier this year in the HBR blogs.  Amy Jen Su and Muriel Maignan Wilkins are co-founders and managing partners of Isis Associates, a boutique executive coaching and leadership development firm. They are the authors of “Own the Room:  Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence.”  

Su and Wilkins argue that if you want to empower, engage, and motivate others, in addition to increasing your positive behaviors, you need also to stop your bad behaviors.  Why, you might ask?  Everyone pays more attention to negative information than they do to positive ones.  As many have observed (at least in past years), negative headlines sell more newspapers.

The essay’s authors suggest three behaviors to avoid:

  1. Judgmental body language.  Research studies show that between 75 and 90% of our impact comes from our non-verbal communication.  So, watch out for the furrowed brow, the scowl, and the quizzical and are-you-really-that-stupid looks.  These subtle behaviors can create substantial damage to the impact of your leadership.
  2. Interrupting and interrogating.  What fraction of the air-time do you take in your conversations?  People don’t feel safe in speaking up when the boss has a history of doing all the talking or constantly interrupting.  Give people your full, undivided attention, and let them finish their thoughts.
  3. Being inconsistent.  Peers and staff are discouraged when they see a leader behave in an outgoing, positive manner to, say, clients and direct reports, and then turn around and be disrespectful to the same people when they aren’t present.  We all want to be around consistent leaders.  We don’t want to be in the position of not knowing whether the supportive or the judgmental persona will show up today.  So, we avoid these leaders whenever possible.

In the end, loyalty and followership are two things we cannot demand.  Negative behaviors such as these will diminish both the short- and the long-term positive impact your leadership will have.

Take note of those behaviors  you need to stop and the begin to take action today.

Have a great week.  .  .  .    jim