10 Bad Habits Highly Successful Female Leaders Avoid

Steer clear of these bad habits to accelerate your own success.

By Caren Merrick (Founder & CEO, Pocket Mentor)

What’s the secret to success? Sorry to break the news, but there’s no magic formula. Even so, you’ll find a few common qualities the best leaders in any field share.  A big chunk of success comes down to persistence in the face of setbacks and adversities. The world’s most successful have the uncanny ability to re-calibrate and bounce back when things don’t go according to plan. Toss a bit of good old fashioned luck into the mix, and you’ll find the “secret” to success is pretty simple. (Though keep in mind that simple does not mean easy.) Aside from the commonalities that successful people share, there’s also a list of what successful people don’t do. Yes, conventional wisdom says, “Never say never.” But if you avoid these bad habits, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better leader and achieving success faster. 

1. Lead Others Before You Lead Yourself

Successful leaders know the first step is to understand what motivates them, what they love, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Below is an example from Rachael Ray: “I did 30-Minute Meals for five years on local television, and I earned nothing the first two years. Then I earned $50 a segment. I spent more than that on gas and groceries, but I really enjoyed making the show and I loved going to a viewer’s house each week. I knew I enjoyed it, so I stuck with it.”

2. Believe You Know Everything

Make a habit of asking questions and seeking advice. Successful leaders understand this time-proven proverb: In the abundance of counselors, there is wisdom. They cultivate as much information as possible from those who have been there and done that. They gain knowledge through articles, podcasts (one of my favorites is Entreleadership) and networking opportunities with other leaders.  

3. Neglect Outside Coaching

No matter what stage in their career — entry-level employee, manager or executive — the successful intentionally seek out a variety of mentors. They understand they cannot grow into their full potential alone. You’ll go further, faster with a mentor!

4. Forget to Prioritize Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health

They understand a great deal is expected of them. They know they’re at their best when they are not depleted in any of these three areas. So, they prioritize to recharge, often by setting up a morning routine that includes one, two, or all three of these areas.

5. Define Success Solely in Terms of Business and Work

Successful leaders know they (and their teams) thrive when they’re invested in something greater than themselves. Of course, they want their businesses to succeed and be highly profitable. But they see this as part of a larger goal to add value and solve problems. Self care is a top priority.  “Participating in meaningful activities elevates your thinking above yourself and your own momentary needs. Every minute you can set aside your own happiness for the sake of others will eventually lead to stronger families, organizations, and communities. In the end, the pursuit of happiness and “success” will pass. What endures is creating meaning in your own life and in the lives of others.”  - Tom Rath, Are You Fully Charged?

6. Avoid Showing Gratitude

This is the case regardless of their role. From team members to suppliers, to Uber drivers, successful leaders treat everyone with respect and recognize the contributions of others.

7. Fail to Support Other Women

Strong female leaders wholeheartedly want others to succeed with a generosity of spirit. Sara Blakely started Spanx as a small business and says, “Everybody needs a leg up in the beginning of starting a business. My big break came when Oprah named SPANX a “Favorite Thing.” We at Spanx want to pay it forward and give other amazing women entrepreneurs their leg up!” Be inspired by Sara’s example of helping other women with her Leg Up program for women business owners. Perhaps you will apply for a Leg Up while you are thinking of how to help other women!

8. Hold onto Anger or Resentment

Successful leaders aren’t in denial when others disappoint them. They feel the pain and look for ways to resolve differences. They intentionally let go and don’t take life or circumstances personally because they know progress, forward movement and forgiveness is necessary. They are too busy fulfilling their purpose to get stuck in the mire of bitterness and resentment.

9. Lie, Cheat and Gossip

Integrity is a foundation for success. As role models, top leaders are constantly influencing others. They know that a lack of integrity ruins their business and chances for success.

10. Expect Perfectionism in Themselves or Others

Successful leaders cultivate a positive attitude and optimism. They have high standards, do the work and keep learning and growing. In business, they follow a simple formula – launch, tweak, improve. They expect to keep making improvements as they grow their business, listen to and stay connected with their customers and team members. They know they're not perfect and learn from mistakes and setbacks. Your turn: What things do you believe successful women should never do?


About the guest blogger: Caren Merrick is Founder and CEO of Pocket Mentor, a mobile app and digital publishing company based out of McLean, VA focused on leadership development and career advancement. She also co-founded webMethods, which was acquired by Software AG for $540 million. She is author of the e-book 5 Ways to Add Value and Move Ahead Now. She is an investor, speaker and serves on several Nasdaq company boards.