Of all the dynamics you handle as a leader, leading people is by far the most challenging.
Very few leaders I know actively set out to discourage their team, yet all of us do it—most often unintentionally.
There’s an edge that comes with being a leader. You see problems others miss. You also see opportunities. You’re passionate. And most days, you’re driven.
And while these are great things, they also have a shadow side.
Sometimes as a leader when you think you’re doing the right thing, you’re doing the wrong thing. When you think you’re motivating people, you’re doing the opposite.
So how do you end up demotivating people in leadership?
Here are the ten very common ways leaders do it all the time.
And in case you think I’m judging, I’ve made most of these mistakes more than once. Experience is a great teacher—if you listen.Experience is a great teacher—if you listen. Click To Tweet
1. Make your team do the work but steal all the credit
When a church or organization is small, you end up doing the lion’s share of the work as a leader. As a result, you get a lot of the credit when things go well.
It’s easy to get addicted to receiving credit.
But naturally, as an organization grows, more and more people do the work you used to do. That’s as it should be. The best leaders do less every year, focusing on their core strengths.
This becomes a pivot point for every leader. Insecure leaders will still want all the credit, and they’ll do whatever it takes to receive it.
One sure way to demotivate your team is to make them do the work but steal all the credit.
Secure leaders love to push other people into the spotlight. Insecure leaders don’t.
If your team is doing the work, give them the credit.Secure leaders love to push other people into the spotlight. Insecure leaders don't. Click To Tweet
2. Micromanage people
Micromanaging only seems attractive to micromanagers. It’s never attractive to the micromanaged.
So why do leaders micromanage?
Sometimes it’s a control issue. But often it arises because a leader doesn’t know how to scale an organization.
When a church or organization is small, you can know all the details and sometimes you should know all the details.
Many leaders become addicted to knowing all the details and being in on all the decisions. And they simply can’t let go.
As a result, they’ll only ever attract followers, not true leaders. And they’ll artificially shrink the size of their organization to the span of their control.Micromanaging only seems attractive to micromanagers. It's never attractive to the micromanaged. Click To Tweet
3. Be disorganized
Disorganization demotivates. Period.
If the event you’re attending is disorganized, you want to leave early (or take over).
If the hotel you’re staying is disorganized (no rooms available when they promised…the room aren’t clean and the valet takes 30 minutes to find your car), you want your money back.
If you’re disorganized, you make it exceedingly difficult for your team to succeed.
One the greatest things you can do for your team as a leader is to become more organized the more your organization grows.
You should get better at order, not worse, even though the task of leadership becomes more complex and demanding.
If you do the hard work of figuring that out, you’ll be a much better leader.
Here are some of my top time management tips that have helped me become much more organized.Disorganization demotivates. Click To Tweet
4. Change your mind…constantly
I can be impulsive. I’m not alone in that in leadership.
Too many leaders direct their organizations according to their whims.
Every time the leader:
Reads a new book
Attends a conference
Studies a new model
Wakes up with a new idea
…the organization changes course.
This exhausts your team.
No leader builds a great future by changing course every few months.
The truly great ones find an effective strategy and stick with it.No leader builds a great future by changing course every few months. Click To Tweet
5. Be unclear
Leadership is complex and often confusing.
So it’s natural to not be 100% certain.
Even when you’re not certain as a leader, you can be clear. Just be honest with people that you’re not sure about the long term course, but in the meantime, tell them the 3 things you’re going to focus on.
Your team needs clarity. No one can follow ambiguity.Your team needs clarity. No one can follow ambiguity. Click To Tweet
6. Delay decisions
Leadership is complex. We all need time to process. But leading well is learning how to make solid decisions quickly.
Can all decisions be made quickly?
But sometimes leaders fall into a rut of delaying every decision for no good reason. It becomes the leader’s default, and that’s always demotivating to a team.
Beware: the leader who always needs more time eventually runs out of time. Constant delay leads to eventual decay.The leader who always needs more time eventually runs out of time. Constant delay leads to decay. Click To Tweet
7. Don’t execute
Too many leaders live in their heads.
Great thinking is a critical part of any leader’s job, but thoughts that never see action never produce results.
Failing to execute also creates a cycle in which the team hopes, only to be disappointed. Star team members will only be disappointed for so long. Eventually, they’ll leave.
Execution separates a leader with great ideas from a leader with a great organization.Execution separates a leader with great ideas from a leader with a great organization. Click To Tweet
8. Say one thing and do another
Too many leaders make public statements of what they think they should say, but then live another way.
Doing what you said you were going to do is the foundation of integrity. Your team loses respect for you every time they see a disconnect between what you say and what you do—organizationally or personally.
What you say publicly should always be what you do privately.What you say publicly should always be what you do privately. Click To Tweet
9. Offer abundant criticism
Most strong leaders I know find that criticism comes naturally.
sometimes I hate the fact that I can walk into a room and spot ten things I would change in the first 60 seconds.
Of course, that’s also strength…being able to spot the problem is one of the reasons many organizations make progress.
But that can lead leaders to always be critical. You can have a spectacular event but obsess over the three things that went wrong.
Eventually, your team will get deeply discouraged and you’ll have trouble keeping great leaders.
If you only obsess over what went wrong, you’ll never build a team committed to getting it right.
The key is to truly celebrate what went right, identify what went wrong, and keep moving.If you only obsess over what went wrong, you'll never build a team committed to getting it right. Click To Tweet
10. Rarely encourage them
No leader has ever quit an organization because they were over-encouraged. Many have left because they were completely discouraged.
How do you know someone needs encouragement?
Simple. They’re breathing.
As a leader, you should be encouraging people every time you interact with someone. Finish an email by saying ‘thanks,’ or ‘hope your day is going well,’ or ‘I love your commitment to the mission.’
Thank volunteers for working hard, but also thank your paid staff.
Encourage your paid staff as though they weren’t paid. The positive environment that encouragement creates will eventually become worth more to them than the salary.
Don’t believe that?
Choose between a $55,000 a year job in workplace with a terrible culture, or a $50,000 a year job where you are encouraged, developed and grown.
Which would you pick? Exactly.
Should you pay your people well?
Absolutely. But in addition to giving people a raise, raise the level of encouragement you give to your team.No leader has ever quit an organization because they were over-encouraged. Click To Tweet
What Would You Add?
I wrote more about creating a positive team culture in this post. Have a look.
In the meantime, what would you add to this list? What demotivates you? Or what have you done as a leader that demotivates others?
Scroll down and leave a comment.