Being a strong leader can mean overcoming years of self-effacing habits.
By the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)
Q. What is one bad leadership habit you are actively trying to overcome, and why?
1. Doing Things Because I “Should”
I’m generally good at setting boundaries, but as my business grows, I have to be even more selective. This includes cutting down on things that I sometimes feel I “should” do but aren’t always the best use of my time, such as coffee meetings and responding to unsolicited requests. I still do these, but within bounds that work with my goals.
2. Downplaying My Accomplishments
When I speak to customers, vendors, employees or mentees, people have researched my background and often mention my accomplishments during the conversation. Rather than appreciate these acknowledgements, I often downplay them or change the subject. As an entrepreneur, I’m now trying to sit back and appreciate my success — something that many entrepreneurs don’t often do, but should.
3. Seeing Criticism as a Bad Thing
So many women want to be liked, so we avoid giving criticism that needs to be given. Instead, we send our employees and direct reports out into the world ill-equipped for the criticism they will face when they turn in substandard work. Criticism doesn’t mean tearing people down; it means pruning their skills until they’re better than ever. I try to remove the negative stereotype of criticism every day.
4. Being Too Idealistic
I tend to be more visionary and see the bigger picture. It’s a good trait to have, but can be problematic at times. I focus more on the end result than the actual path that is needed to get us there. To help combat this, my team interrogates me and plays devil’s advocate to ensure that all challenges of the project are discussed and met. I find that this helps me to think in more practical terms.
5. Ending Sentences as a Question
When speaking about my business, I often end my sentences as if they’re questions. It’s been proven that this upward inflection makes you seem uncertain and is actually a coping mechanism common for women. As women in leadership roles, it’s important we navigate the stereotypes that are inherently being thrown our way. Speaking with confidence is of paramount importance, and it gets the job done.
6. Holding Employees to My Standards
I’ve always been incredibly driven, and even before I was an entrepreneur I was constantly looking for ways to improve everything about my professional performance. I obviously love this trait in employees, but I realize it’s not universal. While I hold everyone on my team accountable for excellence, it’s unrealistic to expect all of them to have the same passion I do for constant improvement
7. Reacting Too Emotionally
In many cases, communicating with passion and high-energy is essential for getting the desired results. But if you get bad news, it’s more important to resist the initial impulse reaction, take a step back and analyze the situation before you respond. This kind of balance between passion and measured responses is a powerful skill for anyone to learn.
8. Doing Everything Myself
Since I’ve grown into a leadership position, I easily fall back into the role of getting things done versus leading others to get things done. I heard a quote last year that I love: “Leadership is the art of getting things done through others.” I’ve been trying to live that and be better at coaching, directing and communicating my expectations versus doing things myself.
9. Saying Sorry All the Time
We as women tend to apologize for everything. We need to stop. Generally speaking, this is not something I hear my male peers doing. So unless what happened was malicious, don’t apologize. Saying sorry for things that aren’t our fault undermines our power; it allows others to subliminally blame us for things that are out of our control.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.