I’ve had so many people ask me advice on how to manage their teams and honestly, what comes to mind are the words of S. M. Stirling where he states “Leading means running fast enough to keep ahead of your people.” If leaders don’t get what I mean, then I’d know we’re in trouble. And so is their aspiration to be an exponential leader.

The reality is that we all may go through phases of being a bad leader. It could be because the challenge the team is facing isn’t our cup of tea, or maybe we’re just going through a bad phase in life. Or that we’re just not ready to be an exponential leader. It’s okay to sometimes be a bad leader – so long as you realize what’s going on. During these phases, rather than pointing fingers at your teammates, the organization or the leadership, accept that you have a personal challenge to overcome.

There are 4 signs that indicate that you need to work on your leadership skills, particularly if you’re aiming to be an exponential leader:

  • People stay for money
  • They confide in other leaders
  • You feel like you’re not heard
  • You feel threatened

You’ll notice that the first two reflect how team members are acting whereas points 3 and 4 show how you feel because of these actions. To recognize that you need to improve as a leader you’ll see the signs in others and yourself.

1. Your Team’s in it for the Money

It’s the first sign. When you feel like you need to increase people’s salary to get them to stay with the company. There’s still great truth in the belief that money is the least important motivator when it comes to retaining employees. If you’re able to engage them, challenged them and make their efforts feel valued, money is going to be the last thing on everyone’s mind. Of course that doesn’t mean you can underpay them – doing that shows you don’t value their input. But, it should never become a salary bidding war where employees are challenging you to increase their pay because of other “opportunities”.

2. People Don’t Come to You with Their Problems

Have you ever been in a situation where you find out something about a team member from another team lead? Do you wonder why they went to another leader rather than come to you? Well it’s usually a pretty straight forward answer: Either they don’t respect you as a leader or they feel threatened with the information they need to share. In either case it’s something that needs to be “fixed” in you as a leader. You need to provide an environment where people feel safe sharing their most scary secrets.

3. You Feel Like You Have to Raise Your Voice

This is more an analogy than really thinking that some of my readers out there actually are shouting in the office – I really hope you’re not. This sign of being a bad leader is that people just don’t seem to listen to you. This translates into deliverables not being produced on time, lack of synergy in the team and people just kind of doing their own thing. No matter how hard you try, it feels like your team is just not listening to you. And you know what? They’re probably not. Why? Because they don’t value what you’re saying – either because of its lack of technical worth or because of how you deliver the message. You need to get down to the core of the problem and figure out how to communicate more effectively.

4. You Feel Threatened by Your Team

To know whether you’re going through this sign, you really, really need to be honest with yourself. After all, very few, if any of us, will admit that we’re threatened by someone junior to us. It’s probably the greatest and most threatening of all insecurities a leader could have. Rather than thinking that you’ve done a good job in grooming and growing your team, you’re feeling like they could take over your job. To solve this, you need to do a two way reflection of yourself:

  1. If you’re growing your team well enough to take over your job, isn’t that a good thing, and,
  2. Are you grooming yourself to grow as well? Obviously the second reflects on the person who’s leading you. It all needs to be a healthy circle of growth for everyone involved.

If you’re willing to accept that you’re not ready to be an exponential leader then you can open yourself up to healthy self-criticism – then you’ll be able to grow and strengthen your leadership brand. Anytime, anyone thinks they’ve achieved their maximum, is where the danger lies. Have you ever been brave enough to accept that you’re going through a bad leadership phase and improve on your weaknesses? Share your thoughts below.