4 leadership styles that don’t work

If you’ve been around business long, you could probably spot a poor leader (or manager). But if you’re like most business owners, your own leadership skills may be a little lacking. Small business leaders often don’t invest in the training and coaching they need to refine their skills, unlike big business leaders who make training a priority. Plus, when you are the leader of your own business, no one calls you out on your poor leadership practices, unlike big business leaders who have to answer to an owner or board of directors.

So here are four types of leadership styles that just don’t work. Do any of them describe you?

Seagull Managers

Seagull managers fly over, crap on everything, steal your lunch and then fly away.

Small business owners are busy people. They wear a lot of hats — selling, serving clients, networking … all while driving their kids around town. It all takes too much time. So when they get to the office, they don’t want to waste time with their employees! They need to get in, give them some direction, and get on with their day.

The seagull manager believes saying thanks and appreciating their employees’ effort takes too much time! Isn’t their paycheck thanks enough?


The abdicator tosses things over the wall to his team. He never checks in and is frequently surprised by the outcome!

Business owners are expected to know everything. But when there is something they don’t know about, they will sometimes assign it to a team member hoping she/he knows how to do it without giving good direction or checking on the progress. And when the project goes awry, the abdicator is surprised and shocked.


No detail is too small for micromanagers to check up on. They need to doublecheck everything — and when they they find a mistake, it just validates their need to micromanage.

The micromanager means well. He’s trying to make sure everything that goes out of his shop is perfect. But the more carefully he checks things, making small changes to each one (that do make them better), the more he undermines the confidence of his team. Knowing that he’s likely to change something, his team doesn’t give him their best work and pretty soon he becomes a high priced proofreader – fixing and rewriting everything.


The savior boss neglects things, then rushes in to save the day at the last minute. If nothing is going poorly, she sometimes creates disasters so that she can rescue them!

The savior is like a micromanaging abdicator. Instead of correcting little things, the savior waits for the big disasters; but the result is just as destructive. By giving poor direction, then failing to check in or not being available to answer questions, the savior creates huge disasters that can only be saved by his/her heroic efforts. The savior constantly speaks of his/her  martyrdom and victimization; “No one can do anything right, I have to do it all myself.”

You can avoid all four of these traps if you will take time to make sure you clearly communicate your assignments to your team; including, what needs to be done, why we’re doing it, and what it should look like when they’re done. Then have regular check-ins, that you don’t blow off for “more important meetings”. If the results are disappointing, don’t fix them! Send it back to the team with clear direction for how they are going to fix it. Lastly, give clear feedback – thanks when things are done well and criticism when they are not.

What do you do to refine your leadership skills? Do you read leadership books and blogs? Attend training?

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