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Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership

In today’s business world, news reports and magazine articles contain numerous accounts of executive corruption and mismanagement resulting from poor business decisions resulting from excessive greed, or downright theft through embezzlement.  While reading an article the other day, I saw some common leadership mistakes compared to the biblical seven deadly sins.  I found the article to be quite interesting and was refreshing to see these mistakes compared to the deadly sins.  It seems as if many executives may be overly tempted to put personal ambitions ahead of those they manage.  While I feel it is an individual’s right to pursue their own goals, sometimes if someone focuses all their efforts on their own agenda, it actually may lead to ineffectiveness in their current positions.  Essentially, leaders should be good role models and take an active part in the business at hand.  A would-be leader will not be very effective if they are never seen, or if they are not respected.

1.  Lust

Not necessarily related to sexual desires or attraction, or committing acts of sexual harassment in the office or workplace, but in a sense overly concerned with appearance.  Too much focus on physical appearances, or too busy trying to be seen by upper management, can take away from the message a leader is sending to others.  Good leaders should let their actions and achievements attract others to their team, organization, or to enhance the message they are sending.  In many instances, when an individual begins to think about how they look or how charismatic they are, their message will most likely be pushed to the background and it may not be as effective when the focus of their team or the organization will be on the person (themselves), not the message (vision).

2.  Gluttony

Simply because someone is in a position of influence, that does not give them an inherent right to take all available resources.  The leader of any team should encourage their staff to only use that is necessary, and to resist all efforts to hoard too many resources.  This mentality does not foster a team environment for the organization and instead will create an “us versus them” mentality, which does not do the organization any good.  Refrain from giving yourself the best equipment at the expense of other members of the staff.  I have seen far too often executive level individuals have by far the best equipment, where members of their staff were still working on old and outdated equipment.  Executives that engage in this practice send out messages that they are more important than others.  In this situation, resentment can spread quickly among the staff.

3.  Greed

Individuals that only seek money as the only deciding factor for a position will have a hard time sending positive messages of vision and goals for the organization.  While they may be effective to a point, dedication to the position that is fueled only by compensation will most likely be someone who does not think about the overall health of the organization for their decisions.  Their decisions will be based on short term boost in order to gain bonuses, promotion, or a higher salary.  As soon as a higher paying offer is available, these individuals will most likely be the first to leave.  Everyone deserves fair and honest wages, but for those who dedicate their entire work existence to compensation will not gain many enthusiastic supporters.  They may be able to work their way up the career ladder regardless, but can the organization honestly argue that they are better off for having this individual as a leader and manager?  Will these individuals find peace and happiness in the workplace?  They may actually find themselves restless and disengaged as a result of constantly looking on the horizon for the next best thing.

4.  Sloth

Individuals in leadership positions need to set the example.  If they are playing games or otherwise not working, they will have a very difficult time inspiring others to meet deadlines, or complete projects in a timely manner.  In fact, these individuals will create an environment of sloth-like behavior in general.  Worse still, they may be demanding of their staff, but do not hold themselves to the same standard.  Common characteristics of leading innovative companies are of employees that are engaged and work extra to ensure their product or service is world class.  This cannot be achieved by management or leadership that is not equally hard working.

5.  Wrath

Instead of getting angry and taking it out on others, good leaders will keep an even keel in times of turmoil.  This is very important as if the leader loses their cool, the results can be disastrous.  Instead of being able to rally the organization to overcome an obstacle or recover from a problem, people may panic or lose control if the management or leadership loses their cool.  For any instances where employees make a mistake, use the experience as a good learning opportunity.  Obviously people can learn from their successes, but many times they can learn more from their failures.  As long as a failure is a result of an honest effort, these individuals should be encouraged to try again and to not shy away from future challenges.  If they realize they will not be punished if they did their best with good intentions, they will continue to seek opportunities to improve processes, services, or products.  For failures resulting from negative origins, they should be reprimanded accordingly.  Leaders who use brow-beating measures to keep projects proceeding or when attempting to meet deadlines will only cause morale to sink.  Instead of facing the challenge of a project, they will also face the challenge of working on a project with a team of lowered morale.  Risk will increase as a result.

6.  Envy

As a child, I commonly made attempts to get something from my parents.  One commonly used tactic was to argue that everyone at school had one, or that everyone else was doing something.  In response, my mom or dad would usually counter by saying that I was different, or heard the argument that stated that if everyone was jumping off a cliff, would I do that same.  Regardless, these arguments can still be applied to anyone in a job or career.  Simply put, individuals would be better off not being envious of others.  Leaders, especially, should concern their focus on the matters at hand and not what other departments are doing or perks they may be receiving.  While it is important to learn from others, when thoughts stray to envy, leaders can lose sight of their objectives.  Avoid concerns about things out of your control, and staying focused on the things that can be controlled is the easiest practice to use.  When work is completed in a prompt manner and with high quality, everything will fall into place.

7.  Pride

Having a pride in a job well done, a project that was completed within a deadline or under budget, or a service that has exceeded a customer’s expectation is a very good thing.  All leaders should aspire to such goals as a routine part of the operations of the organization.  However, when leaders or managers start bragging or boasting, it will be of no benefit to the organization.  Rather than focus on rewards or recognition, a good leader would allow their accomplishments to tell their story.  Many times I have listened to braggarts who were rather self-centered, and just as quickly as they started boasting, I tuned them out and did not take them seriously.  Individuals who resort to this sort of self-promotion will often be viewed as selfish in nature, and their claims equated to common fish stories where the 10 lb. fish was only half that in reality.  Do a good job and do well by your people, and your success story will be told by others.  When an individual is recommended or praised by someone else, it will be worth its weight in gold and will carry far more weight.

Most leadership attributes and strategies are easy to understand.  However, personal failings in many managers or leaders will often lead them astray.  Many of these people are self-centered and in some extreme cases, have put those interests even ahead of the health of the organization.  In these cases, many of the regular workers suffered indignities and financial setbacks, while the poor leaders of the organization profited from it.  Some of these sins are easy to be guilty of, and at times I have failed on a few.  With a constant focus and careful attention, someone can abide by these principles and be able to be very effective.  For all new managers or those entering a position where leadership is vital, constant violation of these sins will restrict their growth and may never fully develop into a quality leader.

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