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The 10 tragic flaws of leaders

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of "Little Book of Leadership"

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Editor's note: In his new book "Little Book of Leadership: The 12.5 Strengths of Responsible, Reliable, Remarkable Leaders That Create Results, Rewards and Resilience" (Wiley), Jeffrey Gitomer strives to answer these questions on leadership: What makes a leader relevant? What makes a leader respected? and What makes a leader remarkable? The following is an excerpt addressing mistakes that leaders can make.

Every leader has flaws. Even you and me. A successful leader can recognize them and keep them at a minimum.

1. Being a bully leader. There's a big difference between pushing people around, barking orders, and earning cooperation. The manner in which you assign tasks and responsibilities will determine the enthusiasm by which your people will produce and achieve. Bullying also creates low morale and sometimes resentment, both spoken and unspoken. You don't have to be pals with everyone, but you do have to get your way without demeaning others. There's a direct correlation between how people are treated and how people produce. Fear is not a motivator. Encouragement is. All bully leaders eventually fail and fall.

2. Being inaccessible. Every leader has a face. And the more your face is present, the more you will be in touch with what's going on, and the more your people will perceive you as accessible. Everyone wants their minute or two to question the leader, report to the leader, and brag about their successes. They also need to be reassured that everything is going good and will be okay. Accessibility also increases productivity because you're there to provide answers and keep everything moving.

3. Responding or deciding slowly. With the advent of e-mail and texting, any one of your people can reach you in an instant. And (not surprisingly) they expect a reply with the same speed. Sometimes the reply is simple, but many times your reply requires a decision or a direction. Too many times I've heard people say, "My boss decides too slowly" or "I can't get a decision." Your leadership requires decisiveness at net speed – so do your productivity and your profitability. Your responsiveness (or lack of it) also sets a tone for their urgency.

4. Reprimanding in public. This rule of leadership is so old I'm almost embarrassed to write about it. But I have to because it's still one of the most violated rules of leadership. If you have to reprimand someone, if you have to yell at someone, or if you have to tell someone what they've done wrong, take them aside to a private area and do so. This allows your people to keep their dignity, tie their bootlaces tighter, and come back for another day. Their loss of dignity is your loss of integrity.

5. Not keeping promises (or breaking them). Your people live and die by your words. Many of them have longer memories than elephants. What may seem like a minor promise to you might be a major promise to them. Your responsibility is to record (in some manner) every promise that you make to every person on your team so that you will become known as a person who keeps their word, and does what he or she says they're going to do.

6. Not telling the truth. Truth breeds trust; lack of it erodes trust. Truth is easily defined: When you tell it, you never have to remember what you said.

7. Playing favorites. I learned about equal treatment in 1972 when my twins, Stacey and Erika, were born. One could never be favored over the other. Sure, you as leader are going to like some people more than others. Sure, you as leader are going to favor some people who are better performers than others. But you cannot do it to a point where it begins to breed resentment or loss of morale.

Find ways to reward everyone on your team in some manner and find ways to praise everyone on your team in some manner. I fully recognize the world is not equal.

In 1939, George Orwell wrote, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Your job as leader is to make certain that each person feels great about him or herself, and a large part of that stems from your ability to communicate that message to them.

8. Being in an inconsistent mood. If you're striving for consistency and achievement with your people, then your mood – to make that happen – must be a consistent one. If your people have to wonder, "Is he/she in a good mood today?" something is drastically wrong. Your mood sets their tone.

9. Being out of technological touch. Many leaders are not as in touch with today's world as they could be or should be. As a 65-year-old leader, I'm constantly upgrading my skills and my technology in order to be as current as, or more current than, my people. Internet adeptness, social media presence, and texting are no longer an option. But many leaders are ignorant about all three. It's not about being up to date with the news or what's on TV; it's about being up to date and in touch with everything about your company, your industry, your people, and yourself.

10. Assigning the wrong task to the wrong person. The old expression is "a round peg in a square hole." It's the easiest way to define making an incorrect delegation or assigning a wrong task. Oftentimes you will assign an important task to your best person, when in fact they may be the wrong person to complete it. They may even be resentful of the fact that you assigned it to them. The key is collaboration. Meet with your best people for an open discussion and throw the topics of who should be assigned what tasks. Not only will you gain their truth, you will also gain their respect for involving them in the decision-making process.

What are your flaws? Document them in a positive way. Not what they are. Rather, what their remedy is.

Work in harmony with your people. Be accessible. Respond directly. Reprimand in private. Keep promises, be truthful. Treat everyone equal. Be in a (consistent) positive mood.

Key point of understanding: The reality leader, the resilient leader, will tackle their flaws in a different way than ordinary leaders. The ordinary leader will read this list and move on. The extraordinary leader (the resilient leader) will seek to turn a flaw into a strength by creating an action plan for greater self-discipline.

Key action to take: On a note card, list the remedies of your flaws. Put the card in your wallet -- next to your money -- so that every time you're spending dollars you can think about the actions you need to take to invest in yourself.

Jeffrey Gitomer has written 11 bestselling business books on the subjects of sales, loyalty, attitude, networking, trust, persuasion, business social media, and leadership. Gitomer gives more than100 presentations a year, writes a weekly column and e-zine. In 2008 he was inductedinto the National Speaker Association's Speaker Hall of Fame. Visit his sites: or

Last Updated: 07/07/2011 - 12:10 PM

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