The Seven Leadership Sins

The world is getting noisier by the minute. Now more than ever, we need strong leaders who are marked not only by vision and passion, but even more so by their character.

How would your team describe you as a leader? What characteristics define your leadership and how do you gauge your success when it comes to your influence?

A number of years ago, marketing guru Seth Godin blogged about the seven marketing sins. As I read through those “marketing sins” it hit me that they provide a great framework for the seven leadership sins. Here they are:

  1. Impatience. Most leaders by nature are impatient. They want to see things move forward swiftly. However, great leaders have an enormous capacity to be patient. They know that success most often takes time and that the growth of those under their charge doesn’t happen overnight. They see time as an ally, not an enemy. And they patiently stay the course while the ineffective leader panics.
  2. Selfishness. This is one of the greatest sins of ineffective leaders. They are selfish, thinking that people are there to serve them. But as Jim Collins rightly points out, great leadership is made up of personal humility combined with professional will. Great leaders are genuinely humble, knowing what they don’t know and skilled at empowering those around them to succeed.
  3. Self-absorption. Self-absorption is nothing more than selfishness on steroids. These kind of leaders believe that the world revolves around them. They suck the oxygen out of the room with the size of their ego, have no ability to listen to criticism, dominate and intimidate, often think they are the smartest person in the room, and have made arrogance an art form.
  4. Deceit. As Seth Godin says, “See selfish, above. If you don’t tell us the truth, it’s probably because you’re selfish.” Too many leaders I’ve met don’t have the courage to tell the truth, so they shade it, living in a world of deceit. They often can’t handle the truth about themselves and fear being found out. So they create their own fantasy world that is not in touch with reality or what is true.
  5. Inconsistency. Nothing is more discouraging than an inconsistent leader. People should never come to work wondering which version of you is showing up. People have got to know that the standards you’ve set are real. That you’re reliable, trustworthy, and not mercurial. That is what makes them secure in your leadership.
  6. Anger. Do your people tremble coming into your office, wondering if you’re going to lash out at them? A great leader has the ability to control their anger and funnel that emotion into solving the issue at hand. Too often leaders allow their anger to rule because they can. But if you need to demean people to make yourself feel big, you’re little.
  7. Jealousy. Godin is right on: “Is someone doing better than you? Of course they are. There’s always someone doing better than you. But if you let your jealousy change your products or your attitude or your story, we’re going to leave.” Jealousy has no place in the life of a leader because it takes the focus off of what you should care about most and that’s the success of your team– not your beating the competition. When you get beat or when a competitor outdoes you, a great leader seeks to learn from that experience to become better, because they know that to be truly great you must always focus on being better.

It would benefit us all to regularly use these seven “leadership sins” to measure how effective we are at influencing those around us. When we do, our lives will be marked with patience, selflessness, humility, honesty, consistency and self-control. And that’s the kind of leader others will respect… and follow.

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