Can you correct the dark traits of leadership?

It's no secret that there are different types of leaders and different leadership models. But what are the key traits good leaders need to posses to inspire the best in their team? And is it possible to have undesirable traits but still be a good leader? Here, Pancho Mehrotra examines these questions and reveals the single most important thing all leaders need to ask themselves.

What do you define as good leadership behaviour?

What are the problems when leadership fails to inspire people and achieve the business’s goals?

A business’s growth depends upon the leader’s vision, their ability to think strategically and empower their team to develop action plans and implement them.

Whether or not the goals are achieved depends on the leader’s behaviour and how that leader manages both the external and internal environment.

More importantly, to what extent will the leader’s psychological tendencies push them in one direction versus another.

Henry Kissinger, former United States Secretary of State said, “Presidents don’t do great things by dwelling on their limitations, but by focusing on their possibilities”. 

Great leaders learn from the past

Let’s see what healthy behaviours leaders need to develop, to inspire and lead their people.

A vision for their business, the strength in character to deal with challenges and setbacks and be able to see these as learning experiences to make better decisions, rather than seeing them as failures. 

The leader, first and foremost, is identified by their love and passion for what they do, their vision – for themselves, their business and their people. 

This passion for life and work also provides their people inspiration, energy and hope.

A high level of honesty and integrity are also hallmarks of a good leader.

It’s not enough to talk about honesty; they must walk the talk, and ultimately, it translates to becoming a role model.

This also relates to having the strength to admit when they are at fault and to take suggestions, not only from their peers, but also from their subordinates – those who are ‘running the show’.

This will spark trust in their team, which is another crucial attribute for successful leadership. 

A leader is a guide, and you can only be a guide if you have the trust of those you are guiding.

We have recently seen a lot of failed leaders in politics.

The British leadership debacle can be held up as an example of a lack of trust.

Continual development of themselves and their teams also sets good leaders apart from others.

Embracing change and uncertainty and then adapting with new skills and a shift in mindset will filter through to the whole organisation, again building trust and loyalty.

Finally, good leadership also depends on courage and taking calculated risks – for themselves, the business and the people.

So, if the above attributes or behaviours are lacking in the leader, what are the potential problems for a business, and how can you identify the traits of poor behaviour in a leader?

We can often look at the revenue growth of the business and its market share to see if it’s going up or down.

However, examining the leader’s behaviour will give us clues as to whether the business will thrive or decline.

Poor leadership stands out a mile and is easy to identify, as is good leadership.

Poor leadership behaviours are the opposite of those above.

Lack of vision and passion. An inability to gain the trust of their people, translates to a lack of trust from clients.

A poor leader quickly blames others and the external environment when a problem arises.

A change in conditions can make them reactive and display irrational behaviours, leading to flawed decision-making, which tends to be self-centred or self-promoting.

Their support for the team is limited to focusing on improving the bottom line and their image rather than providing development opportunities.

The reality versus the myth

Many leadership behaviours are, to a certain extent, hardwired.

Some behaviours are healthy and some destructive.

The fact is, at least some of these desirable and undesirable behaviours exist in everyone.

We are either born with some of these traits or acquire them through our formative years. 

But it’s important to know that not all seemingly negative traits are handicaps in every situation. 

For example, leaders can often be labelled selfish and egotistical. 

However, a bit of egotism and grandiosity, even excessive self-love, can help a leader with a vision and goals that others find incomprehensible to dream.

If the leader can inspire the team with their aspirations, the team’s self-worth and confidence will benefit.

This filters through in their personal lives too. 

So, from a seemingly negative trait, positive outcomes can be achieved. 

In real estate, there is often an expectation that the salesperson will be pushy, which has a negative connotation.

This can be changed with a positive outcome for everyone – the salesperson, the leader and their clients – with a better result for the bottom line. 

This requires awareness, a willingness to change and guidance – internal and external.

Successful leaders will recognise when they need help and reach out for it.

To provide an example of undesirable behaviour in action, let’s examine the film Wall Street (1987), starring Michael Douglas, who played the character of Gordon Gekko.

If we are to examine the language, it’s easy to see the heightened narcissism and self-importance behaviours displayed by Gordon Gekko.

“The point is, ladies and gentlemen, greed, for the lack of a better word, is good,” Douglas said as Gekko.

“Greed is right; greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.

“Greed in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind, and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but the other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”  

The language typifies a leader in business with little boundaries. 

The real question is, can businesses afford to have this type of leader running their businesses? 

In the same context, being aware of needs rather than greed would have a far more beneficial outcome.  

Again, flip an undesirable trait to something that benefits. 

A leader’s job is to recognise this and implement it successfully.

Leaders who want to grow personally and professionally must ask themselves one question. 

Is my behaviour helping me and my people to grow sustainably and achieve a common goal?

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Pancho Mehrotra

Pancho Mehrota is the CEO of Frontier Performance and a recognised leading expert in the area of communication, influence and the psychology of selling.

Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.