8 Ways You Can Kill Your Leadership Authority

Andy Stanley once said:

Leadership is a stewardship, it’s temporary, and you’re accountable.

The last part of this quote always catches me. Andy Stanley tells us that we’re accountable for our leadership. And it’s true.

We’ll be called out on whether or not we led the best we could. People will watch to see how we handle the power (and stress) of leadership.

There will be people looking for reasons not to follow your leadership. You will also have people who want to discredit and kill your leadership authority.

But those aren’t the ones you have to truly watch out for. You have to watch out for yourself.

Your Own Worst Enemy

It’s funny. Actually, it’s not…

We love to self-sabotage our efforts. We will do things that will hold us back or make us fail.

I’ve been there and I’m sure you’ve been there. It’s not fun.

We love to tear ourselves down and become our own worst enemy.

Most of the actions that destroys a leader’s authority is no one else’s fault but the leaders.

So, be aware of that as we look at the ways you can kill your leadership authority.

You Kill Your Own Authority

1. Set standards you don’t follow: Being put into a leadership position is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a young leader. When someone else believes in you and promotes you to a position of leadership, you may begin to feel cocky, arrogant even.

You begin to set standards for your team. You tell them there are rules. You lay it out for them.

And then your team sees you don’t model the standards you set before them.

Talk about a downer for your team.

Reminder: If you set standards, follow them.

2. Create unrealistic expectations: Leadership is about casting vision. You even get to challenge your team to exceed their expectations.

But creating unrealistic expectations that are outside the beliefs of your team only hurts your ability to lead.

The team begins to feel inadequate in the face of such lofty goals. They don’t believe they can reach those heights and they begin to hold back.

This might surprise you but it’s true. I’ve experienced. Heck, I’ve even been one of those who held back because of unrealistic expectations.

Reminder: When you’re laying out expectations for a projects, keep the expectations within the realm of possibility.

3. Work yourself to death: Yes, you’re the leader. You need to set the pace. You need to show others you’re committed.

So you feel the requirement to bust your butt and put in as many hours as possible.

That’s commendable.

This shows you’re willing to go above and beyond to get the job done. It’s also dangerous.

When you no longer go home. When you miss important life events. When you no longer know who your family is… You’re doing no one any favors.

Even your team.

The team is watching you. They’re seeing how you live your life, whether that’s within the organization or outside.

As people watch others work themselves to the bone, they begin to realize what they don’t want to do. And that’s be a workaholic.

Remember: Life isn’t all about work. Take a break and demonstrate this to those you lead.

4. Scream and yell to get your point across: Some leaders think raising their voice and shouting above everyone else will let people know who’s in charge.

I’ve come to find out that this isn’t the case.

Screaming and shouting doesn’t get your point across. Rather, others see you as someone who doesn’t know how to communicate their point.

This abrasiveness wreaks havoc in organizations. Your harsh tones will make people less likely to approach you. Your attitude will turn people off.

Remember: Being louder than everyone doesn’t get your point across better. 

5. Talk about people behind their backs: You may be shocked to hear this but there are leaders who will talk about their team behind their backs.

They’ll share the failures of their team. They’ll talk about the mistakes people have made. They’ll even make fun of people!

Now, I hope you’re not one of those people. Why?

Because all this talk eventually gets back to those it was about.

When people hear you’ve been talking about them, your level of influence crashes. These people will wonder why you didn’t approach them.

They’ll lost respect for you as a leader.

Remember: If you have a problem with someone on your team, talk to them. You’ll gain leadership authority, not lose it.

6. Continuously fail to deliver on promises: Have you ever been around someone who constantly promised something only they failed to deliver on that promise?

It could be failing to get an advertisement to a business partner. It could be talk about moving a business. It could be a promise to return a phone call. Or it could be the promise of a raise that never materializes.

By failing to deliver on your promises, you’re telling people your word isn’t good. You’re telling people they shouldn’t trust you.

Remember: Your word is your bond. When you fail to follow through, you’re saying you’re not worth following.

7. Don’t stand up for what is right: We see right and wrong things happening around us all the time.

You might see an employee being inconsiderate to another employee. You might see someone cheating the books. You might see someone stealing company goods.

The question is: As a leader, will you speak up for what is right or will you let it continue?

Remember: If you don’t do what is right, those you lead will think it’s okay to do the same. Stand up for what’s right.

8. Show up late: You show great disrespect to your team when you fail to be on time. You’re sending a message.

That message?

I’m more important than you are.

When you set meetings, make sure you show up on time. When you schedule a call, pick up the phone a few minutes early.

Whatever you do, make sure you’re on time.

Remember: You make the other person feel less important when you fail to show up on time.

Question: What other ways are leaders killing their leadership authority? Let’s talk about the ways in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • “Remember: Life isn’t all about work. Take a break and demonstrate this to those you lead.” – >> This applies not only to us but to what we expect out of those we lead. If continually “pile” on responsibility without taking into account the health (physical, mental, family) of those we lead we will quickly find ourselves alone.

    • That’s very true Jon. We can talk the talk but what happens when it comes to walking it out? If we’re making others overwhelmed, are we being true to this?

  • Constantly changing direction is one area where I see leaders fall short. One week they do one thing and then the next the do another.

    • That will definitely kill your authority as well. How do you avoid this in your leadership?

      • I avoid by remembering when I was that kind of leader and how poorly my team did as a result of my bad leadership behavior. Now I keep priorities and commitments to a minimum to ensure that we don’t commit to too much but what we do commit to we dig in and go for it.

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  • Joe, your post speaks well for Christian Poets & Writers too, so I’ll highlight it on the blog – http://www.christianpoetsandwriters.com. Thanks and blessings.

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  • Connie Pheiff

    Great post, I agree another to add is when leaders are constantly changing direction and expecting others to follow. Too often I see leaders (people) opting in for the flavor of the day. To be an exceptional leader you need to focus on your business strategy and drive the results. When you are constantly changing you will reduce the attainability of your results.

    • That can be really difficult for others to follow. How do you avoid this “squirrel” type of leadership?

  • Love this article Joe! I think authority is the permission others give us out of the respect they have for us. With their permission is power, so anything – including all that you’ve mentioned – that jeopardises your respect in their eyes, reduces the permission they give you to lead them, and after a while – well that’s you stuffed! Thanks for sharing!

    • Glad you enjoyed it Ralph! We are given power and permission when we take that leadership position. We’ve got to be wise about it, huh?

      • That’s so on it. We don’t realise that when we step into leadership, we are inviting people to trust us and they do. Our challenge is to fulfil that trust. that’s what I write a bit about in the book too 🙂