One of the standard questions that we love to kick around is “What are the worst traits of a leader?” I often find that the failure of leadership comes around due to subtle attitudes, the little nuances that have unintended consequences. Three that come to mind are elitism, hypocrisy and emotional deception.
1. Elitism: All too often leaders have the need to make it clear that they are in fact in charge and the boss. They constantly reinforce their authority, their status, and their expertise. This type of elitism creates distance between the leader and those whom he or she leads. Input from your subordinates is not likely to be forthcoming. In fact, what they’re likely to do is not give you any relevant input, because they get a sense that anything they have to say will be deflected in the leader’s need to reinforce their superior position. Elitist leaders have the tendency to put down others and their ideas. Elitism is often convey by individuals who are completely unaware they are acting in an elite manner. This attitude is so second-nature they don’t even realize they’re doing it.
2. Hypocrisy: Say one thing, do another–this behavior is all too rampant. For leaders this means holding others accountable for one set of criteria and standards while holding themselves accountable to another set of criteria and standards. He might expect everyone to show up early, but has a reason why he can’t be in early. He will work at home, while insisting that everyone else work in the office. He will hold others accountable for one set of quality measures, and have a lesser standard for himself. Hypocrisy makes it difficult for anyone to take you seriously.
3. Emotional Deception: Often leaders feign enthusiasm where they have none, fake grief when they feel none, project sincerity when they could care less. In this day and age, where emotional intelligence and emotional connections are given such import, leaders forget that people know how to read them. Such a leader will engage in an emotional conversation, and feel your pain, and two hours later, will forget that you were even in their office.
Proactive leaders who are able to keep their personal connection with others strong, speak and practice the language of egalitarianism, and hold themselves accountable to the same criteria and standards they hold others to, and are emotionally honest have the advantage of knowing, that if nothing else, their relationship with their subordinates is an asset and not a hindrance. If leaders fail on these three accounts, they fall into the traps of elitism, hypocrisy, and emotional deception.