It is evident that strong leadership within an organisation can mean the difference between success and failure of a business.  This is because the leaders of an organisation usually set the tone for how the organisation operates, as well as the culture of the organisation. For example the Virgin group is known for innovation and pushing boundaries similar to its leader Richard Branson who is a known innovator and risk taker. Another example of good leadership was Steve Jobs; through him Apple changed and shaped not only technology but culture. There are many other famous business leaders who shape and shift their industries through their personal leadership identities.

Poor leadership on the other hand can leave an organisation in ashes. This is why i have decided to point out some of the signs of poor leadership within an organisation, or a business unit in your organisation or even your team.  These 7 signs are symptoms which will be displayed when there is poor leadership. Most organisations try to deal with these symptoms individually, usually by looking at the employees without realising that they are signs of a bigger problem – poor leadership.

1. Low Morale

One of the most defining qualities of good leadership is enthusiasm and a positive mental attitude. This is because it usually filters down to the followers and attracts more followers.  Low morale in a team may suggest poor leadership as the leaders lack enthusiasm or positivity themselves.  This might also be because of unreasonable micromanaging which is a sign of lack of trust, or a leader’s habit of publicly humiliating employees for every little mistake.  Low morale is usually because employees lack the motivation to propel the organisation probably because of lack of encouragement or promise from leaders.

2. Low Productivity

Low morale usually leads to low productivity, it’s not rocket science. Low productivity could also result from a manager who wastes time on the wrong things such as always complaining and witch hunting faults in projects or excessive planning instead of executing the work. They could also be focusing on counting value instead of adding value. Another big reason for low productivity is a blame culture or CYA (Cover Your Ass) culture which leaves employees afraid to do their work or innovate because of fear of blame.

3.  Lack of collaboration

Leaders who are not open to ideas or suggestions of team member’s disable collaboration within the team.  This is an indicator that there is only one way of doing things, the leader’s way. This behaviour helps to foster the blame culture as well as the CYA culture which drastically reduces collaboration within the team as well as with leadership.  Once employees feel their ideas or contribution does not matter they do the bare minimum to remain part of the team or just enough not to get fired. It’s for this reason that most employees at some organisations i have been do spend their day covering their ass as opposed to doing their jobs and adding value to the organisation.

4. Favouritism 

We have all been in different teams and groups and we have seen who the favourites are, maybe at some point you were the favourite.  Favouritism is a clear sign of poor leadership as this disenfranchises other members of the group who might have value to add. Situations in organisations arise whereby the favourites are promoted first or get involved in special projects. This practice often leads to feelings of resentment, infighting and division among the team. This behaviour can only lead to a display of the first 2 symptoms, low productivity and low morale.

5. Unbalanced workload

Favouritism usually also leads to an unbalanced workload amongst departments or team members. The favoured department or team member can get away with doing less work as it is easier for them to justify. Other reasons for an unbalanced work load could be poor planning on the leader’s part or diverting attention in case of failure or simply avoiding a heavy work load. This results in overtime for teams who don’t understand why as well as underutilisation of teams or team members. Both the underutilised and the over worked can start to exhibit signs of low morale. Good leaders know their resources well and how to use them to good effect; an unbalanced workload could be a sign of poor leadership.

6. Disorganized 

Is the group or team disorganised? Does it seem as people do not know their roles or no one ever takes ownership or responsibility for anything? Only a disorganised leader is comfortable with a disorganized team or group. A disorganized leader is late for meetings and deadlines, constantly misplaces important documents, often misses vital pieces of information, is never on track with the rest of the team and is generally disruptive to everyone. Disorganised leaders are not only poor leaders they are bad leaders. A disorganised group usually has members who are also demoralized because they do not know their role in the group.  Productivity in disorganised groups is also usually low because there is no clear allocation of tasks, goals or outcomes.

7. Talkers not walkers

Poor leaders are good at talking the talk but not walking the walk. The y are full of empty promises to both clients and fellow employees. Once they are branded as empty promise makers, clients can seek other service providers and employees will no longer believe in any future promise of success within the organisation. Team members can also learn this habit of big talk with no action which ends up with no one doing anything.  People follow leaders because they believe and trust that they will be led to the “Promised land”, if that trust and belief is gone the first 2 signs will also be exhibited.

As you can see, these signs or symptoms of poor leadership are linked. Some organisations try to deal with these symptoms in silos without identifying the root cause. Most organisations struggle with increasing the productivity and morale in their organisation because the leadership is busy counting value instead of creating value through exemplifying good leadership qualities.

If you are the leader of a team or organisation displaying these signs, its time you look at your leadership style and revise it before you fire you entire team. You might waste money trying to change things in the organisation through technology, parties or team building events when all you have to do is look at your leadership style.

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