Working hard is no substitute for working smart. Technology entrepreneur and best-selling author Josh Linkner recently spoke to Forbes about the various ways top execs undermine their own leadership. Any cringe-inducing recognition here?


Violate trust. This goes beyond straightforward lying, which should be a fairly obvious point. You can lose all-important team members’ trust by not doing what you say. Don’t make promises you can’t keep — big or small, Linkner says.

Be selfish instead of a servant leader. Your goal is to elevate your team and celebrate each person’s victories, not your own, Linkner reminds readers. Put employees’ needs before your own and do everything in your power to help them help themselves. If you spend your day celebrating yourself, you’ll not only stall your team’s progress, but you’ll also become extremely unpopular — and fast.

Lack focus and flip-flop on priorities. Your mission should be simple and straightforward for your team to follow and accomplish, he adds. If you’re not clear on goals and a clear-cut, prioritized path to complete them, how should you expect anyone to achieve anything? Figure out a plan — for this week, this month, this quarter and this year. For that plan, establish the key objectives and the mini-goals each person is responsible for realizing.

Be user “unfriendly.” I recently wrote a blogabout user-friendly products and their leadership counterparts. If you’re not accessible or kindhearted, or if people have to jump through hoops to reach you for a brief moment, it’s inevitable that you’ll leave a bad taste with someone. When you’re a user-friendly leader, you’ll constantly surprise people and leave them with a positive impression, rather than a dogmatic, negative one, Linkner says.

Deal in fantasy instead of science. Don’t get me wrong: vision is crucial. You need to have an end goal and believe in it strongly. However, that vision requires execution to make it a reality, he notes. You need to track progress obsessively with metrics, so you’re able to make real-time adjustments and tweaks. Without this, you’re just a usedcar salesman spinning the wheels of everyone you meet.

Lack passion and creativity. If you expect your team members to be evangelical about what you’ve set out to achieve, you need to be a beacon with your passion, bursting from every pore. If you want your team members to think outside the box, why are you coloring inside the lines? If you’re ho-hum, your team will generate equally ho-hum results. Allow them to unleash their own creativity by setting yours free, Linkner advises.

Play checkers instead of chess. As a leader, you need to think a few moves down the board, just like a chess player. We all should be doing the jobs we want, not the jobs we have. He recommends helping your team members decipher a sales target’s strategy or what the board of directors will say at the next proposal. Continuously drive the group forward and do so yourself — otherwise you’re just playing checkers, which I’m sure you can do in your sleep.

Act as if it’s just about what you say. This is the easiest method of all in a downward spiral toward undermining yourself. This is a trap — by phrasing things nicely, you might think it’s enough. However, in reality, it’s really about how you make other people feel. In ten years nobody will remember what you said day to day, but rather your overall impression you’ve left on someone. What have you done today, this week or this month to show your gratitude? The difference between being polite or pleasant and completely making someone’s day doesn’t require much more effort, but it makes all the difference, he adds. That gap is what will separate you as a great leader versus the sea of good ones out there. What legacy will you leave?

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