Could anyone ever be so good at managing employees that they get bad at it?
And it most often happens when they take some leadership traits to the extreme.
“When it comes to leadership, is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? There sure can be. In fact, just about any weakness can be attributed to one or more strengths that are overused,” says Dan McCarthy, Owner of Great Leadership and its blog and author of The Great Leadership Development and Succession Planning eBook.
There are times when a leadership strength can turn into a weakness – and undermine your effectiveness.
Leadership traits: Dial up or down?
Taking a strength to an extreme is always detrimental to performance, Harvard Business Review researchers found. More interesting — or perhaps troubling — is that even a mild tendency to overdo it can be harmful.
Still, managers face a lot of different situations and need to know when to turn up and down a leadership strength.
So when you manage people and processes, you want to use strengths strategically and not overload. A perfect balance is an imperfect art.
Here are five of the top leadership traits, where there’s some danger in using them too much – and how to avoid an overdose.
Managers need to make plenty of tough decisions. That’s where they learn to stand up for what’s right even when it goes against the grain.
But misguided courage can turn a good manager into one who’s uncompromising and overly critical, burning people and bridges along the way.
To avoid it: Take a pulse check at two important junctures – when facing tough decisions and when no one seems to agree with you. A trusted mentor can help you recognize if your level of courage is within reasonable boundaries or has exploded into a sense of omnipotence.
Managers need to care about their employees, company and results. But too much concern can cloud judgment on tough, personal issues, such as under-performance.
Compassion can be seen as naiveté, and an overly nice manager can be taken advantage of.
To avoid this: It’s important to be friendly and caring with employees, but don’t be a pushover. Base all decisions on documented performance and experience.
Giving employees training, assignments and freedom to do their work are important tools to empower them in their roles.
Giving them too much room by over-delegating or employing a complete hands-off management style can set up employees (and you) for failure. Not to mention, managers who give up too much power can be seen as shirking their responsibilities.
To avoid this: Delegate and assign work with expectations of how and when progress will be reported. Let employees help decide when they’re ready to take on more responsibility, but you make the final decision based on past ability to achieve goals.
The C-suite loves a focused manager who gets things done and delivers better-than-expected results.
The problem arises when managers are so focused that they get results at the expense of good people, time and resources.
To avoid this: Shoot for goals, while considering the consequences of decisions along the way. Ask yourself often, “Who and what will be impacted by this decision?”
Brilliant managers are often one step ahead of everyone and can successfully strategize simple and complex things.
The problem: They disregard others’ views and are unreasonably impatient. The result is poor relationships.
To avoid this: Never assume you can do it alone. Even when you’re convinced you’re right, enlist another manager to review your work or decisions.
“The lesson here is when strengths are overdone, they can turn into weaknesses,” McCarthy says. “While it’s good to be aware of and leverage your strengths, don’t overuse your strengths to the point where they can have negative side effects. Be open to feedback and learn to ‘dial it back,’ especially when under pressure.”