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Unproductive Behaviors of a Leader

Unproductive behaviors waste yours and everyone else’s time and energy. So why do we continue to exhibit these poor behaviors?

Most of the time, I try to write about the positive and inspiring leadership qualities we should possess. The qualities that produce productive behaviors that help us effectively lead our teams. Today we dive in nine behaviors that impede our ability to move forward in our leadership journeys.

Before we dive in though, let’s set one thing straight. This is for us, not them. Anytime we explore negative behaviors of a leader, it is easy for those people who exhibit them to pop up in our head. Even if it conjures up real world examples of people who produce these unproductive behaviors, this post is a reminder of who we should NOT be as a leader.

Unproductive Emotions of a Leader

Manufactured Drama

Leaders who exhibit unproductive behaviors can manufacture drama. They take something that should not have the least flare of dramatics, particularly when it involves people, and pour gas on a smoldering fire. They find great pleasure in pitting people against each other. People in a position of leadership who exhibit these behaviors enjoy debates, not dialogue. They cannot accept that people are working towards a consensus, especially when the direction the team is headed veers from their preferred outcome.


John Maxwell defines leadership as, “influence.” When I coach, I teach kids that we all wield influence. The question is how do we use that influence we have been given? Do you use it for good or bad? Your agenda or the agenda of others?

The negative use of our influence is usually found in manipulation. It is using the influence you possess to get people on your agenda, rather than supporting theirs. Manipulation is the art of messing with someone else’s mind to get what you want.


Panicking is never productive. As you climb the leadership ladder, consistency and steadiness are what your team needs. When our team brings you a challenge or a crisis, they need help, not a reaction. An overaction could be fatal to their confidence in bringing future issues forward.

Navy Seal Rorke Denver says that, “calm is contagious.” In a moment of crisis, people will elevate to the temperature of their leader. The result is simple, you panic, they panic. If you are calm, it draws them towards your level of emotion and away from theirs.


If you have never read it, Jon Gordon wrote a great book called the Energy Bus. I highly recommend it!  It is a quick read on the need to be positive in the work environment. In the book, he talks about the concept of the, “Energy Vampire.” Those people that suck the life out of an organization.

Negative is natural. We must work to be positive. Negativity is like a disease, if left untreated it can spread like wildfire and destroy a person from the inside out. Also like a disease, it can be contagious, extremely contagious.

As a leader, you have the responsibility to hold yourself accountable. When you catch yourself leading with negatively, treat it immediately. Give yourself a solid dose of self-reflection and deal with it.


The easiest unproductive behavior to succumb to when you are successful is pride. The more successful we become, the greater pride we take in what we do. The slightest criticism, fair or not, can place us on the defensive. Especially when a program or project was our creation.

Here is another great John Maxwell quote, “Leaders who fail to prune their pride will meet demise. That’s not a guess, it’s a guarantee. With pride, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ we will fall, but ‘when.’ There are no exceptions.”

Pride clouds our vision and inhibits our ability to see problems that have developed in our organizations. We try to paint a preferred picture of a reality that doesn’t exist.


Insecurity can be Kryptonite to your leadership. All leaders have natural insecurities. Leadership can be a lonely place. The question is, how do we deal with those insecurities?

We have all been told hundreds of times to hire people that are smarter than us. We hear it, but do we really believe it? Leaders who recruit, retain, and develop talent build organizations that will last beyond them. Insecure leaders will suffocate those that they should be breathing life into. Most of all, their insecurities will leave them isolated and ineffective.


Here is some historical context on the word hypocrite from Webster’s Dictionary, “hypocrite ultimately came into English from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player.” It goes on to talk about how the actors wore different masks that represented the characters they were playing.

Leaders who are hypocritical are difficult to follow. They wear different masks and their character changes with the scene. Their actions do not align with their words. It’s the old adage, “do as I say, not as I do.”

One of my favorite quotes is from President George H.W. Bush, “preach the gospel at all times and use words if necessary.” We can preach the standard operating procedures, the policies, and the core values all we want, but if we do not walk in them with our actions, they are worth as little as the piece of paper they are written on.


Dale Carnegie said, “any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain and most do.” The further we get in our leadership journey, we can become more critical, which leads to cynicism. No one wants to be led by a cynic.

Andy Stanley has a great response to your team bringing you a new and maybe event farfetched idea, “you say wow, not how.” Critics ask how, before saying wow. This simple phrase can temper your criticism. Criticism tears people down, it does not build them up. Leaders who use their influence for the good, build people up.


I am a firm believer that one human being has no right to treat another human being harshly.  I have heard people in positions of leadership brag about yelling, screaming, and cussing at a team member.  Under no circumstance is that acceptable, regardless of the severity of the mistake.

If this is you, I would highly encourage a quick behavior change.  Here is what General Eric Shinseki says about change, “if you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.”  Leaders who lose control in a rage of anger are becoming more irrelevant by the day.  There is no place for them in the modern leadership world. 


Some of these unproductive behaviors of a leader may come more natural to you than others.  For me, its criticism.  I acknowledge and own that.  My guard is up, I resist it on a daily basis.  Because I recognize it, I have a filter for it.  Most critical thoughts stay contained to where they belong, in my head!  Which one of these do you struggle with the most?    

The world is starving for quality leadership.  Your people are too.  These unproductive behaviors were compounded in many leaders during the pandemic.  Stress levels were extraordinarily high.  Most leaders display the worst of their behavior styles when they are under stress.   

All of these unproductive behaviors can restrict and limit your growth.  Culture is set at the top.  The organization takes on the personality of its leader.  Leaders capitalize on their strength and have great awareness of their weaknesses. 

If you allow your unproductive behaviors to go unchecked, your organization will suffer.  On the other hand, if your productive behaviors dominate, you will lead a sustainable and successful organization.  Your people will be grateful for it.  I promise.      

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