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3 Habits that Undermine Effective Leadership

July 8, 2024 | By Command Sgt. Major Gabriel Wright, Army Medical Logistics Command
We hear leaders say all the time that people are the Army’s number one priority. But there is a difference between saying that and really putting it into practice. Many good leaders – armed with honorable intentions – fall short of success because of poor habits. Leaders can “tell” their teams they care for them, but it takes more than words to earn trust and build buy-in. Leaders must walk the walk if they are going to “talk the talk.”

Here is a reminder of some of the common leadership pitfalls we all face and how to avoid them.
  1. Not building genuine relationships within your unit.
Good leaders understand that relationships matter. The strongest teams are built on a foundation of trust, which only develops in a positive, healthy environment where people respect and care for each other.

Leaders must get to know their team members. Take time to have conversations with your staff that are not simply focused on assigning tasks or getting status updates. Don’t mistake this as advice that you should try to be everyone’s buddy. This isn’t about friendship. It is about seeing people as humans and wanting to genuinely understand them. What motivates that individual? What kinds of responsibilities do they have outside of work that may require extra support from you? What do they need to reach their full potential?

Building relationships requires a time investment. One way I have seen good leaders approach this is to consistently block time – maybe 15 minutes twice a week – to make sure they walk around and engage their team members. To some people, scheduling time might feel artificial and forced. But it is crucial to protect time in your schedule so you can prioritize relationship-building within the organization. An effective leader takes the time to get to know the organization and the people. Relationships require consistent investment.
  1. Failing to communicate clearly, concisely and consistently.
Do not speak in riddles.
Do not try to sound eloquent.
Just tell it like it is.
Provide facts. Clarify what is needed and when it is needed. Remain approachable and available for guidance.
Finally, encourage team members to be creative in how they execute your intent. It makes a difference when you let others figure it out without micromanaging.
  1. Talking more than listening.
As leaders, we get extremely focused on giving intent and “leading” the organization through our words. What we don’t always think about is the value of silence or, more importantly, listening.

Ask for feedback but be prepared to not always like what you hear. You will only become better by listening to those you serve and applying feedback to positive change.
Good leaders know that they don’t have to dominate every conversation. In discussions, leaders who skillfully use silence can motivate others to share their thoughts more completely and openly.

By listening more than talking, we convey to others that we appreciate and value their perspectives. This type of silence fosters an environment where ideas can take root, nurturing a space of transparent conversation and teamwork.