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Can Bad Habits Be Trained Out of a Good Leader?

December 14, 2022
By: Patrick Bosworth in the Great Leaders category.

Many leaders have no specific training or experience in leadership. Their promotions came as a result of their hard work, ability to think on the fly, and their value to the organization. Unfortunately, these same leaders can unintentionally develop bad habits over time. The upside is that these habits can usually be corrected with the right methods.

Poor leadership habits can be trained out of a good leader if he/she recognizes them, understands how they affect others, and changes his/her environment so that better habits are encouraged.


Understand the goals and habits of a good leader

A good leader is someone who guides by example. The best leaders know how to handle challenges, delegate responsibility, and motivate their team. The most effective leaders also have strong communication skills and an ability to inspire others. Good leaders are humble, but they are also confident. They can admit when they’re wrong and apologize, but they don’t make excuses. They have high standards for themselves because they know that their actions set the example for everyone else in the organization.

The most successful leaders are willing to learn and listen. They encourage employees to take responsibility for their actions, whether it’s fixing mistakes or implementing new ideas. Employees who take ownership for their work are more likely to do their best and achieve positive results than those who don’t feel like they’re empowered to make decisions or improve processes on their own — even if it means making mistakes along the way.


Focus on the problem, not the person

In many cases, bad habits are caused by misunderstandings or confusion about what’s expected from a leader. If you can identify the reason for the bad habit, you’ll be able to address it more quickly and effectively.

For example, if an employee is constantly late because they’re not clear on the required reporting time, you can sit down with them and clarify expectations. If their lateness stems from a poor attitude toward their job, then you may need to take a more direct approach. It’s important to tailor your approach based on what’s causing the problem behavior and how long it’s been going on for.


Change the environment to encourage good leadership habits, and prevent bad ones from forming

A bad habit can be formed if the work environment is unsuitable. Employers should change the environment of the organization so that it encourages positive thinking, problem-solving, and communication that will lead to better leadership skills.

To start enacting positive changes for leaders in the workplace, consider the following:

  • Give employees autonomy over their work, so that they have more control over their time and less stress
  • Hire people who are self-motivated, tolerant of ambiguity and open to new ideas
  • Give employees regular feedback on their performance
  • Schedule meetings for a specific purpose; don’t let them drag on unnecessarily or become side conversations about other topics


Develop and model new leadership behaviors

It’s not enough for a leader to simply decide that they don’t want a particular bad habit anymore. They have to develop new leadership behaviors that will replace the quality or action they’re trying to eliminate. Good leaders are often created by example, so it’s important that employers set a good example when it comes to leadership.

Start by writing down the behaviors that you’d like your leadership team to improve. Try focusing on one at a time, so it’s easier to see progress. Then look for examples of those behaviors in real life, whether it’s in your personal or professional life.


Download our Leadership Guide to Emotional Intelligence