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20 Signs That You Cannot Be Trusted As A Leader

Job satisfaction has decreased since the beginning of the recession in 2008. According to Gallup polls U.S. workers have reported a decrease in job satisfaction. The Gallup-Healthways Work Environment Index score has dropped from 51.3 on January 1, 2008 to 47.5 on June 1, 2011. The Index includes four items: job satisfaction, ability to use one’s strength at work, treatment of supervisor, and is it an open and trusting work environment.

Other studies highlight how stressful the work environment can be:

71percent of American workers are”not engaged”or”actively disengaged” at work (Gall-up2011)

69 percent of employees report that work is a significant source of stress (American Psychological Association, 2009)

52 percent of employees simply don’t believe the information they receive from managers (Discovery Surveys, Inc.)

47 percent of employers think that employee trust has declined (Hewitt Associates LLC, 2009, p.2)

All of the above items are strongly effected by the leaders employees report to or are supervised by. Dan McCarthy has a great blog devoted to leadership topics and his blog post 20 Signs That You Cannot Be Trusted As A Leader contains some great examples of how many leaders destroy trust in the workplace.

1. You don’t do what you said you were going to do.

2. You overpromise and under deliver.

3. You’re unpredictable and inconsistent.

4. You always seem to have a hidden agenda.

5. You’ll agree just to avoid conflict.

6. You never share anything personal about yourself.

7. You never seem to finish anything you start.

8. You have a reputation that says you can’t be trusted.

9. You’re never willing to take a stand.

10. You won’t listen.

11. You don’t seem interested in what’s important to others.

12. You gossip about other people and disclose confidential information.

13. You make decisions but don’t explain how and why you made the decision.

14. You often change your plans or mind and don’t tell others about it or explain why.

15. You come across as uncompassionate and insensitive.

16. You won’t admit your mistakes or acknowledge your weaknesses.

17. You misrepresent other’s views.

18. You’ll say anything to achieve your objectives and results.

19. You sugarcoat the truth.

20. You see others as a threat when they are successful or come up with good ideas.

Anything to add to the list?


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Amanda Rhea

I learned how not to be a leader by the examples set by managers I worked under early in my careet. Quite a few of these items sound familiar from that time. A tag onto #6 and #11 is that never coming out of your office leads people to not trust what’s going on in there.

Adrian Felts

Amanda’s comment about getting out of the office is dead on. Get out and visit with people in their work environments. Engage with them on what they are working on. Manage by walking around.

Peter Sperry

The most critical to me is that you try to make people feel good by sugar coating bad news rather than treating them like adults with honesty and/or you promise things that you know you cannot deliver (and the person receiving the promise knows are unrealistic). Too many wannabe leaders overpromise with the hope they will somehow be able to deliver if all the stars align properly. It is is much better to make realistic commitments, explininging your limitations if necessary, follow through on those commitments and hope to do more (but do not promise it).

Johan Bos-Beijer

These are a good list – I agree with Amanda that learning from leadership regarding what examples not to follow is a valuable education.

I would add – Not giving compliments, acknowledgement and/or recognition, even in the form of a quick ‘thank you’ or ‘that was helpful’.

Early on in my management career, and coaching of leaders, I wrote a summary training treatise with simple equation to create a succinct reminder. Saying you are a people person is different from being a people person so having something to remind you of core values is a helpful memory jog.

The equation is: Recognition + Reinforcement + Respect = Results (JBB 1977)

Jeff Houghton

Phew, as a Pricipal officer, I am glad I do not meet any of that critiria. Maybe that is why I managed to keep a good balance, being aware of my recorporate responsibilities and that of my staff.

Daniel Crystal

I think a lot of these problems stem from promoting employees who aren’t prepared to be leaders. In my experience, very few people actively try to be a bad leader, but are oblivious to the fact that they’re exhibiting these poor behaviors.

Scott Span

Great list, thanks for sharing along with the stats. I bet we could all add a few more to the 20 Dan has proposed. In working with leaders I often suggest exploring the top 3: honesty, transparency, and authenticity! More can be found on The Tolero Think Tank . Overall however, I’ve found that those 3 things (many included in within the 20 points) help to foster a culture of trust.

Jonet Prevost-White

I sent this to at least four friends who recently became leaders in various roles. Very applicable to all. Thank you.

Paul Wolf

You make a good point Daniel. From my local government experience people get promoted to leadership positions based on their political skills and they are not prepared to be leaders. It is surprising how little self awareness many people have.

Jay Adams

You subjectively assess your own leadership success (surprise, I’m great) rather than objectively having your performance evaluated for you by an independent third party. Nobody can truly ascertain whether they themselves are avoiding these pitfalls without asking those whom you lead and/or serve.

Denise Petet

Add to the list:

You love being in charge but refuse to be responsible.

You never make mistakes, and if you do, it’s never your fault, you’re always a victim of…..

Your recollection/interpretation is how it happened, no matter how many people remember otherwise.

You cut down/disparage others to make yourself look better.