Team Morale and Leadership

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
they will say: we did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu
 Is your leadership damaging team morale?
Leadership effectiveness can make or break the strength and performance of a team, with research from Gallup, amongst others, showing that the major impact on employee engagement is the impact made by the direct line manager.
If you think about the Leaders you have worked with during your career, how many of them have been good and great? How did they make you and the rest of the team feel? What did they do to make you feel that way?
What happened when you encountered Leaders who had a destructive and damaging influence on those around them? How did they make you and your team feel?
Here are 10 common characteristics of leaders who damage team morale;
1) Only interested in the end result. Achieving results is obviously important but some Leaders take this to the extreme and have no concern for the people in their team. Instead they view them as tools to be used to achieve the task, and do not take into consideration their feelings. Praise and recognition is in short supply as they are only doing what they are paid for, so they don’t feel the need to praise them for turning up to work.
2) Fear of failure. The Leader has an innate fear of failure which causes them to be cautious in their approach and to stick to tried and trusted methods at all times. Taking risks isn’t an option and they will want to retain control with micro management a key feature of their leadership style.
3) Focus on mistakes. Due to their fear of failure driver such Leaders will have a strong correctional urge, with their focus spent on looking for errors. Their first instinct when reviewing work will be to point out all the mistakes an individual or team has made. Such an approach instils fear in others as they spend their time thinking about the consequences of making mistakes in their work, which only serves to encourage them to be circumspect in the manner in which they tackle tasks.
4) Playing favourites. When a manager measures their success by not failing they can find themselves relying on particular members of the team. They will view these people as the ones they can trust to meet their standards of performance and as a result will be seen to favour these people over others they don’t believe can meet their demands. This is sure to create divisions in the team, as the Leader can often overlook inappropriate behaviour from the “trusted” people and this then creates jealousy and conflict.
5) It’s my way or the highway. Ineffective Leaders can be dogmatic in their views and are not prepared to entertain alternative views. It doesn’t matter if you have more experience than them or if you have an innovative idea, they are in charge and it is their role to come up with the solutions. They are intolerant of others and don’t have time to listen as they are too busy telling you what to do!
6) Irrational behaviour. A team needs to know how their leader is likely to react when they approach them for help and guidance. If they never know how the leader is going to behave they will be reluctant to show their vulnerability by asking for help. Instead the leader will be shunned as much as possible and they will try and keep their heads below the parapet to avoid being in the firing line when the leader “explodes”. All this serves to store up trouble, ultimately creating more erratic behaviour from the leader who cannot understand why the team chose to hide problems from them.
7) Violate confidentiality. Leaders are often in a position where they are confided in by members of their team and the cardinal sin they can commit is to betray that trust by talking about their people behind their backs. This is an obvious piece of common sense, but it is surprising how many managers fall foul of this basic requirement. A team needs to be able to trust their leader and once that trust is gone it is extremely difficult to rebuild.
8) Sheep dip leadership. Everyone is an individual with individual needs, values and motivations, but poor leaders expect everyone else to bend to their will. Skilled leaders recognise that in order to maximise performance they need to be flexible and adjust their style to meet the needs of the individual.
9) Lack of communication. In high performing teams communication is the altar on which teamwork is built. Team members want regular feedback on progress, they want to know how they contribute to the achievement of goals and they want to be listened to. Some leaders feel that this is unnecessary and that the team should only operate on a need to know basis, too much information will stop people focussing on their task. These leaders haven’t got the time to listen and communicate as they are too busy getting the job done.
10) Avoid conflict. Strong leaders face up to challenges, they take responsibility and they accept that they are accountable for their team and its performance. If an individual in the team is not performing to the required standard they will take the appropriate action to resolve the situation. Weak leaders will shirk such responsibilities and allow poor performance and behaviour to fester, which builds resentment and a loss of respect for the leader.
Team morale is damaged by a wide variety of factors and a weak leader is usually the starting point for problems to arise. The leader is responsible for creating the environment for people to thrive in and to give of their best. They need to be open and honest with their people, adopting a flexible style to suit individual needs, and be prepared to handle conflict when it arises. Leaders who fail to do this will struggle to earn the respect of their team and team morale will ultimately suffer. Teams want a leader that they can look up to and the 10 points above are just some of the ways a Leader can lose followers.
The basic building block of good teambuilding is for a leader to promote the feeling that every human being is unique and adds value.   – Anonymous