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Ten Reasons Why
You SUCK as a Leader
We’ve all seen bad leaders who have reached
positions of authority without having many (if any)
real leadership skills. I’ve learned so much watching
the effects of bad leadership and here are some of
the common traits that I’ve observed.

© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
1. Your confidence is not courage.
People often confuse confidence with courage. You can
fake confidence but not courage. Leaders are paid to
make the difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions
like killing projects, saying “No” when everyone expects
“Yes”, letting someone popular go who is nice but
ineffective, and taking well-reasoned risks, often with
incomplete information and without someone else to
blame.
You’re not paid to appease people and make decisions
based on what is least likely to make you look bad later.
Walk the talk, stop the buck, have some spine!
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
2. You think humility is a sign of
weakness
You show confidence and bravado but lack any
humility and consider humility a weakness. Good
leaders are humble when required and know the
power of humility in leading people.
One of the greatest motivators is when someone you
respect says “I don’t know, what do you think?” or
“Can you help me?” It’s human nature that we want
to help people, especially those we respect. If you
want people to follow you, just show some humility
and ask them, nicely.
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
3. You care what people think about you,
not what they think about.
Your self-consciousness is based on the insecurity of
knowing that you’re in over your head. If you were
genuinely confident and comfortable in your
leadership role, you’d be less interested in what
people think of you and very interested in what they
think about-- their ideas, their concerns, what’s
stopping them from doing their jobs better.
To find this out you need to truly listen.
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
4. You talk more than you listen
You learn nothing while you’re talking. You surround
yourself with friends and people who don’t challenge
you while those who do challenge you get ignored or
even sidelined as “disloyal” or “not a team player.”
Listen closest to those who disagree with you. They
are far more valuable since you may learn something
new or at least understand how they think and why
and so be better able to lead them. Your followers
need to feel valued and part of your team which
requires that you genuinely listen to them.
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
5. Your inaction speaks louder than
your lofty words
You delegate everything except taking credit and you
hire consultants to do your job so that you have
someone else to blame. You always give the impression
that you are too busy with more important things to get
involved and you act like you are above the day-to-day
problems everyone else has to deal with.
Coaching, motivating and speeches are only small parts
of the leadership job. “Doing” is the biggest part. What
are you doing? What complex problems have you
grappled with and solved? What difficult decisions have
you made? Which sacred cow did you launch from the
trebuchet today?
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
6. You lack integrity
You may be able fool all of the people some of the
time but that time will soon pass. People have
memories and emails and they are talking about the
uncomfortable truth you were trying to hide, just not
to you.
It’s so obvious that it sometimes gets taken for
granted but you have to say what you mean, mean
what you say and admit when you were wrong. You
have no integrity if you cannot be accountable for
your own failings.
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
7. Failure terrifies you.
You act like you’re infallible. Have you never taken
risks or just never taken the blame? Who has
honestly done a lot, reached a senior position, and
never failed? The truth is that bad leaders fail poorly,
sweeping things under the carpet and hoping that
nobody noticed.
A real leader takes risks and is sometimes wrong,
but they are the first to admit it (quickly), learn from it
and move on. The fakes bury it, find someone else
to blame or distract everyone with smoke and mirrors
or a new strategy.
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
8. You so want to be a leader
Your ego drove you to become a leader and we all
unwittingly helped you along by confusing confidence with
competence and humility with weakness. Once the wrong
people get the leadership roles, it’s hard to get rid of them.
Worse still, they usually surround themselves with similar
people who put their personal agendas ahead of the shared
common purpose.
The catch 22 is that the best leaders often don’t really want
to be leaders while the worst desperately do. One of the
best leaders I have worked with confided that he wanted to
leave his position because of the uncooperative jostling for
power and influence among the executives and the
emotional drain of being the only person who really cared
about the many people under his leadership.
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
9. You don’t care about others
You have no empathy and believe that caring gets in
the way of reason and discipline. Leaders cannot
gain the respect and loyalty they need to lead
without genuinely caring about people. Management
by fear never works and faking it is worse than not
caring.
Don’t confuse empathy with being “nice.” Leadership
is not a popularity contest and people will ultimately
respect you more for being firm and taking some
necessary but unpopular decisions if you act with
integrity and clearly empathise with people.
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
10. Sorry, but you’re just not that bright
You change strategy with the wind and try to appease
everyone at the same time because you’re out of your depth
intellectually. At the first sign of trouble you change direction
without fully understanding what happened. You gather your
band of yeasayers and run off in a new direction before
anyone starts asking embarrassing questions. One company
president I know calls it “kiddie football.”
You don’t have to be the smartest person in the team but you
do need to be able to understand and prioritise large
quantities of data with often complex, competing opinions and
struggle with the whole range of business, people and
technical problems that decisions often entail.
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com
Good leadership is often quite subtle and its
full impact may not be obvious or immediate.
Bad leadership has an immediate and obvious
impact on an organisation but it is surprising
how long it takes to change bad leaders. The
mechanisms that push people up are often
unwilling or unable to pull them down (or push
them out.)
© Derek White 2013

derek@qedsimplicity.com

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Ten Reasons Why You SUCK as a Leader

  • 1. Ten Reasons Why You SUCK as a Leader We’ve all seen bad leaders who have reached positions of authority without having many (if any) real leadership skills. I’ve learned so much watching the effects of bad leadership and here are some of the common traits that I’ve observed. © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 2. 1. Your confidence is not courage. People often confuse confidence with courage. You can fake confidence but not courage. Leaders are paid to make the difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions like killing projects, saying “No” when everyone expects “Yes”, letting someone popular go who is nice but ineffective, and taking well-reasoned risks, often with incomplete information and without someone else to blame. You’re not paid to appease people and make decisions based on what is least likely to make you look bad later. Walk the talk, stop the buck, have some spine! © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 3. 2. You think humility is a sign of weakness You show confidence and bravado but lack any humility and consider humility a weakness. Good leaders are humble when required and know the power of humility in leading people. One of the greatest motivators is when someone you respect says “I don’t know, what do you think?” or “Can you help me?” It’s human nature that we want to help people, especially those we respect. If you want people to follow you, just show some humility and ask them, nicely. © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 4. 3. You care what people think about you, not what they think about. Your self-consciousness is based on the insecurity of knowing that you’re in over your head. If you were genuinely confident and comfortable in your leadership role, you’d be less interested in what people think of you and very interested in what they think about-- their ideas, their concerns, what’s stopping them from doing their jobs better. To find this out you need to truly listen. © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 5. 4. You talk more than you listen You learn nothing while you’re talking. You surround yourself with friends and people who don’t challenge you while those who do challenge you get ignored or even sidelined as “disloyal” or “not a team player.” Listen closest to those who disagree with you. They are far more valuable since you may learn something new or at least understand how they think and why and so be better able to lead them. Your followers need to feel valued and part of your team which requires that you genuinely listen to them. © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 6. 5. Your inaction speaks louder than your lofty words You delegate everything except taking credit and you hire consultants to do your job so that you have someone else to blame. You always give the impression that you are too busy with more important things to get involved and you act like you are above the day-to-day problems everyone else has to deal with. Coaching, motivating and speeches are only small parts of the leadership job. “Doing” is the biggest part. What are you doing? What complex problems have you grappled with and solved? What difficult decisions have you made? Which sacred cow did you launch from the trebuchet today? © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 7. 6. You lack integrity You may be able fool all of the people some of the time but that time will soon pass. People have memories and emails and they are talking about the uncomfortable truth you were trying to hide, just not to you. It’s so obvious that it sometimes gets taken for granted but you have to say what you mean, mean what you say and admit when you were wrong. You have no integrity if you cannot be accountable for your own failings. © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 8. 7. Failure terrifies you. You act like you’re infallible. Have you never taken risks or just never taken the blame? Who has honestly done a lot, reached a senior position, and never failed? The truth is that bad leaders fail poorly, sweeping things under the carpet and hoping that nobody noticed. A real leader takes risks and is sometimes wrong, but they are the first to admit it (quickly), learn from it and move on. The fakes bury it, find someone else to blame or distract everyone with smoke and mirrors or a new strategy. © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 9. 8. You so want to be a leader Your ego drove you to become a leader and we all unwittingly helped you along by confusing confidence with competence and humility with weakness. Once the wrong people get the leadership roles, it’s hard to get rid of them. Worse still, they usually surround themselves with similar people who put their personal agendas ahead of the shared common purpose. The catch 22 is that the best leaders often don’t really want to be leaders while the worst desperately do. One of the best leaders I have worked with confided that he wanted to leave his position because of the uncooperative jostling for power and influence among the executives and the emotional drain of being the only person who really cared about the many people under his leadership. © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 10. 9. You don’t care about others You have no empathy and believe that caring gets in the way of reason and discipline. Leaders cannot gain the respect and loyalty they need to lead without genuinely caring about people. Management by fear never works and faking it is worse than not caring. Don’t confuse empathy with being “nice.” Leadership is not a popularity contest and people will ultimately respect you more for being firm and taking some necessary but unpopular decisions if you act with integrity and clearly empathise with people. © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 11. 10. Sorry, but you’re just not that bright You change strategy with the wind and try to appease everyone at the same time because you’re out of your depth intellectually. At the first sign of trouble you change direction without fully understanding what happened. You gather your band of yeasayers and run off in a new direction before anyone starts asking embarrassing questions. One company president I know calls it “kiddie football.” You don’t have to be the smartest person in the team but you do need to be able to understand and prioritise large quantities of data with often complex, competing opinions and struggle with the whole range of business, people and technical problems that decisions often entail. © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com
  • 12. Good leadership is often quite subtle and its full impact may not be obvious or immediate. Bad leadership has an immediate and obvious impact on an organisation but it is surprising how long it takes to change bad leaders. The mechanisms that push people up are often unwilling or unable to pull them down (or push them out.) © Derek White 2013 derek@qedsimplicity.com