How Not to lead a Team?

While teams are fundamental to any modern organization, they often are led in ways that cause frustration and harm to the team members, even when the leaders had no such intentions.

Leadership is often thought in the terms of hierarchy, with leaders being at the top and followers at the bottom. While it looks good on the organizational chart, a formal position up the hierarchy does not necessarily mean that you are a “leader”, and moreover a good one. It is not surprising when people complain about horrible leaders because these are the ones who probably are so proud of their title and position, that they ignore the basic facts of how to lead a team.

So many times I have seen people complain about their team meetings stretching over hours with no concrete conclusion coming out of them, or when there are conflicting views on the team, but the leader takes no notice of it. While most of the leaders do have good intentions and are truly trying to lead in the right way, their actions sometimes speak otherwise. Whether you are a leader or are looking to climb up the ladder, it is important that your behavior doesn’t cause frustration or discomfort to other team members.

So below are some of the things that every leader must avoid, thus not turning into the “horrible boss” that many complain about.

Not keeping your word

If your aim is to lose respect as a leader, then this is the fastest way. When you commit to doing something, but you go back on your word then it is one of the worse things for a leader to do. It is important to do things that you say you are going to do, and if you cannot do them you must communicate effectively to your team well in advance. Also, this kind of gesture encourages a bad habit in the team, where if the leader himself/herself can slack off then so can the rest.

Also, if you are someone who is looking to become a leader one day then this is an important advice. When you keep your word, people know that you can be trusted, you are reliable, and this will help you make the climb in the hierarchy.

Playing Favorites

It is in the human nature where we are inclined towards few as opposed to others, but as a leader, it is important to maintain a balance and treat everyone the same in order to be fair. When leaders have their favorites, it kills the morale of the team and also makes people distrustful of your motives. The best way to handle such a scenario is to be fair to everyone and treat everyone the same, irrespective of your prejudices.  Treating people impartially and ethically in any given scenario is the right way to lead.

Expecting others to follow rules when you don’t

This is one of the most common mistakes, where leaders would expect others to follow the rules and procedures in work life which they themselves don’t follow. If as a leader you don’t arrive on time, then it would be wrong to expect the same from others. If you are asking your team members to work on the weekends, then even you should be working with them by their side. If you don’t abide by the rules which you are preaching, it is very obvious that your team members will get frustrated with such kind of a behavior. As a leader, you have a strong influence on the team and people will look up to you for guidance, and so your actions should be reasonable.

Giving more importance to results at the expense of relationships

Although it is true that leaders are accountable for achieving results, chasing those results at the expense of relationships is another mistake which some leaders tend to make. Meeting the sales target, finishing the project on time, within the budget and with utmost quality are just some of the goals which leaders are striving to meet. But in this process, more often, the people who are truly putting in efforts to attaining these goals get neglected. While it is important to meet the goals, it is also important to take care of the concerns and needs of your members, because they are the ones who will be working to achieving success for the complete team.


No one is fond of micromanagers, but ironically, most leaders don’t realize that they are micromanaging. They probably believe that they are in fact helping others by pinpointing what they must do, and how and when to do it, which undoubtedly is fine when someone is new to the job and is learning. However, even after gaining expertise and competency in the task, if someone keeps instructing how you should do your work, then it might be unnerving. When a leader exhibits this kind of behavior, it not only destroys the morale of the employee, but the employee might just give up on making any efforts because he knows the boss is anyway going to tell them how to do it. The employee might also feel that his leader does not completely trust him in doing the job perfectly, thus creating unnecessary problems. Such leaders need to take a step back and let the competent employee be in charge of his task and complete it. If the employee requires any help, you can sure provide your insights then.

You criticize but don’t like being criticized and don’t accept your mistakes

Everyone strives to be better, and healthy criticism plays an important role in that. However, harsh criticism might not play well in workspace because it reduces one’s confidence and instills fear. If you practice a healthy form of leadership, where your criticism is taken positively by others, then that not only helps the team members to grow but also leads to your improvement as well. However, when you practice harsh criticism, you should expect that to come back to you as well. If not, then in worst cases your team might go silent.

It is also important to admit when you are wrong. Contrary to the popular belief, admitting your mistake is not a sign of weakness but, being incapable of owning up your mistake, definitely is. When you admit your mistake, it not only builds trust within the team but even the team members feel free to acknowledge their mistakes rather than covering them up.

My way is the “right” way

Well, there aren’t many things that have just one “right” way of doing it. As a leader who is trying to build and scale a strong team, it is important to realize that there might be more than one “right” ways of doing something, and yours might just be one of them. While everyone likes their own suggestions, for a leader it is vital to take into consideration views of other members too. Rather than considering others opinions and always going by your way, can lead to a possibility where your team will never try to find the best solution, but the solution that would appeal to you.

Taking credit for yourself and blaming on the team when things go wrong

There are some leaders who want to be in the spotlight, which may not be bad but if they are going to take the credit for the team’s work for themselves, then that sure will not play well with other members. A good leader always gives credit to his team members and the work they have done, because that is how you build a cohesive team. Nonetheless, something worse than taking the whole credit is blaming your team when things go wrong. While it may be true that mistakes were made by the team, it does not mean you should start the blame game. Taking ownership of the mistake on behalf of your team or acknowledging the mistake as a complete team, always makes a great leader.

Most leaders have good intentions and have a passion for building and leading good teams. They always want to lead right, but sometimes some actions might take a wrong turn on the way. Thus, it is a good habit to scrutinize your leadership behaviors once in a while, so that you know you are not causing more harm than good.

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Business Analyst by profession but truly a travel enthusiast, animal lover, dancer, and an avid reader that has brought me to writing. A reliable team player living in the present with utmost positive attitude who cannot live without friends and family. And I am one of the best persons you will ever meet unless you mess with me :)