This article is part of The Ascender, the Highrise platform for articles and resources.

10 Common Leadership Weaknesses: How to Spot Them and Improve

Andrew Langat
October 23, 2023
Picture illustrating leadership weakness of a professional.
Read our case studies document and learn how Highrise helped other individuals to improve their professionnal skills and careers.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
"A strong leader accepts blame and gives credit. A weak leader gives blame and accepts the credit." -Horace.

As a leader, there is tremendous pressure to be strong and not show or admit your own weakness to your team members. But this should not be the case.

Great leaders are not flawless; they have strengths and weaknesses. Successful leaders know how to spot and improve their own weaknesses to ensure they don't affect their performance. But not everyone knows how to do this.

So what are common leadership weaknesses?

And how can a leader spot them and improve leadership strategy?

In this article, we will explore what leadership weaknesses are, how to spot them, and what are the best ways to improve.

<div id ="one">

What Are Leadership Weaknesses?

Leadership weaknesses are attributes or traits a leader may possess that may result in negative actions that eventually affect performance and the work environment.

They include: a lack of emotional intelligence, poor listening and communication skills, and poor work ethic. These traits can be traced to some weaknesses in their leadership skills.

Fortunately, noticing leadership weaknesses can help mold leaders by helping them identify paths for improvement. Even good leaders can become great leaders by transforming weaknesses into leadership strengths.

<div id ="two">

How Can Leadership Weaknesses Become Important?

Being open to learning from weaknesses keeps strong leaders on their toes and helps them avoid letting arrogance creep in. One of the greatest downfalls for good leadership is ego. Thinking that they are always the smartest person in the room will be a barrier to growth for most leaders. When leaders stop growing, they become ineffective over time.

Knowing their weaknesses can help leaders build trust with their team members. A leader lacking specific skills can delegate tasks to a team member; this shows that they trust them to perform these tasks. This builds trust in the relationship and through the critical feedback they receive from their direct reports, the leader can improve on their weaknesses.

Weaknesses help build more leadership strengths. Weaknesses can be a result of changes within the work environment. The Covid-19 pandemic created a need for a hybrid workplace; this may have taken some leaders by surprise. It forced them to come up with solutions to improve on the leadership weaknesses they had. From these challenges, these leaders changed their leadership styles and become more dynamic and effective.

Therefore, weaknesses force us to find solutions, create new solutions, embrace others, and be more positive in our personal life and businesses.

<div id ="three">

10 Leadership Weaknesses and How to Spot Them

1. Poor Communication Skills

If you struggle with communication skills as a leader, you will have challenges in articulating your leadership strengths, positions, ideas, and expectations clearly.

The outcome of this leadership weakness is misrepresentation and misunderstanding, which lower team morale.

Great communication skills are among the distinguishing attributes of successful business leaders everywhere. Effective leaders need to master communication skills, including verbal, written, listening, and non-verbal skills.

How can you spot poor communication skills?

As a leader, spotting your own poor communication skills takes some self-awareness. That said, you can spot this common leadership weakness through the following signs:

  • You don't reply to communication on time. For example, you read an email but do not respond until you see a follow-up email.
  • You have poor presentation skills. As a leader, having poor presentation skills can not only fail to deliver your intended message, but it can also embarrass you. Tell-tale signs of poor presentation skills include monotone delivery, speaking fast, and use of fillers such as “um,” “uh,” “basically,” “you know,” etc.
  • You leave poor or vague feedback. Feedback that leaves the recipient confused about your expectations can leave a direct report unsure how to proceed. Examples of vague feedback include: "I like your work, but you need to improve" or "Your productivity can be better." These kinds of feedback don't come with actionable steps for improvement.
  • Poor listening skills. This includes, listening only for facts, faking attention, selecting listening, and interrupting the speaker.

How to improve communication skills:

To correct poor communication, you need to understand the elements of effective communication skills. This entails communicating clearly and consciously, with completeness, concreteness, and curiosity.

You can learn more about how to communicate better in the workplace here: communication styles in the workplace.

2. Poor Decision-Making Abilities

As a leader, you will be required to make decisions on various aspects of work. After all, the buck stops with you. Do it well and you will push the business forward. Do it thoughtlessly and your ability to lead effectively will be significantly diminished as you lose respect.

No one is immune to a poor decision; even the best leaders among us periodically make decisions that raise eyebrows. The goal should be to minimize instances of poor decision-making as its consequences can be devastating.

How can you spot poor decision-making abilities?

Poor decision-making ability can occur due to the following: rushing to make decisions, rarely consulting others, not being open to new ideas, or simply due to absence of self-awareness.

How can you correct poor-decision making abilities?

In a typical day, you will make roughly 35,000 decisions. Some may not be meaningful, but some will be, especially if other team or staff members rely on them. As this is one of the most important soft skills of leadership, how do you ensure you are delivering objective and clear decisions?

To get it right, do the following:

  • Learn about leadership styles and opt for one that will assist you in your decision-making. For example, working with a certain cadre of employees requires deliberation before making decisions.
  • Work with a leadership coach to refine decision-making skills.
  • Make it a point to consider different viewpoints.
  • Learn about the executive decision-making process as advocated by Peter Ducker.

3. Inability to Empower Others

In the words of Bill Gates, "a true leader empowers others."

Empowerment is one of the key attributes that a good leader should possess. Those in leadership positions need to make an effort to identify and attract future leaders, and then motivate and equip them to achieve success.

An empowering and effective leader has good communication skills, gives constructive criticism, has clear expectations, and has an eye for talent within their staff. They know how to ensure that employee engagement and employee morale are high.

How can you spot your inability to empower others?

You might mistake delegating tasks for empowerment. They are similar, but not discerning the difference can may lead to disappointments from your team members and their energy and enthusiasm will waiver.

That said, you can spot your leadership weaknesses through the following:

  • You have no time. You may be so busy that you don't have time to check up on your team members. This may lead to disengaged employees, affecting their morale to work and perform.
  • You lack confidence in others. You may have an "I do it best" attitude, meaning you don't trust your team members to do a task as well as you can or you fear other people will not complete the task to your satisfaction. This may be due to your inflated ego.

How can you correct your inability to empower others?

To empower others, you need to understand the importance of empowering others and how this connects to your influence and leadership impact.

For instance, empowerment fosters personal development in an environment of trust and it helps employees build their own rules for success, leadership strengths, and analyze and improve on failures.

Work on creating an empowering environment for your employees as it will increase customer satisfaction levels and improve employee morale.

Have a clear vision and achievable goals and objectives. This will help create a framework that guides employees to make empowered decisions that can lead to success.

4. Lack of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is one of the core aspects of leadership. It is crucial to building relationships within the company and it helps many leaders improve team building and have successful businesses.

However, leaders who lack emotional intelligence negatively impact a work environment due to their behavior. This leads to lower morale and productivity, all of which has a direct impact on the company goals.

How can you spot a lack of emotional intelligence?

A leader with low emotional intelligence can limit your leadership effectiveness in many ways.

So, what are the signs that you lack emotional intelligence?

You can spot the following signs:

  • You have emotional outbursts. You may struggle to understand and control your own emotions or you may lash out at your team members without understanding the cause of your losing control. Any small matter can set you off, leading to an emotional meltdown.
  • You blame other team members for your problems. When something goes wrong, your first reaction is to find someone or something else to blame. You might believe that you had no other choice for what you did and that others simply don't understand your situation.
  • You are oblivious to other people's feelings. You may ignore your employee's feelings and demand they keep working without taking the time to account for their welfare. Also, you might get angry that other people expect you to be aware of how they are feeling.

How can you correct a lack of emotional intelligence?

To correct a lack of emotional intelligence, you need to take a step back and work on yourself. Fix your weaknesses – especially when it comes to emotional control.

You need to be self-aware and recognize your strengths and limitations, including how your emotions and behaviors impact everyone around you.

Another aspect is self-regulation, including managing and controlling your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This enables you to remain calm and level-headed, especially in times of conflict or stress, and will help you make informed decisions.

Lastly is relationship management. This is crucial because the more you connect with your team, the easier it is to understand and avoid potentially damaging relations. Moreover, you will be in everyone's good favor if you are understanding their feelings.

For more insight, you can look up this: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership.

5. Inflexibility and Resistance to Change

Successful leaders choose a strong leadership style that can allow them to be dynamic and flexible to make changes when necessary. Part of a leader's job description is how to manage change as it is necessary for growth and success.

However, some leaders are rigid and are not eager to change their ways; you may be one of them.

You may have fears that change may be expensive, or the entire team may fail to adapt to change. However, the consequences of resisting change can be costly to the entire company or organization in the long run.

How can you spot that you are resistant to change?

  • You fear failure. You won't support a change if you are not confident with your abilities to adapt to it. When you feel threatened by such risks, you protect yourself from failures by resisting the change.
  • You lack some skills. Resistance to change emerges when you feel unprepared to adapt and adopt new processes due to a lack of upskill training or if you need end-user support resources to guide you through the initial learning curve. This can also include training on friction points in a new process, team structure, or technological implementation.

How can you correct inflexibility and resistance to change?

To be a change driver you need to find a way to accept change yourself. Change comes in many forms; knowing when it's necessary and how you can incorporate it into your leadership style is key. And it doesn't mean that you have to change your whole leadership style.

Have a change management framework in place that will allow you to look at pros and cons. Include reflections on your potential, dynamic leadership traits, and reputation and then use that information to improve.

6. Failure to Provide Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is a way for good leaders to establish regular communication with their employees. Leaders can build good relationships with their teams through performance reviews and team meetings. However, things can go sideways if a leader provides negative feedback.

Negative feedback will sound like criticism and this can undermine the relationship between you and employees, leading to a decline in performance and productivity.

Sometimes in an attempt to provide constructive feedback, which helps your team members grow, negative feedback can slip in the process.

But how can you know that you are failing to provide constructive feedback?

Here are some signs:

  • You give constant criticism. You may correct each mistake that your employees or staff make. For example: "Why did you do that? or "How will that work?"
  • You use an angry tone. The tone of your feedback will affect how your employees react and your disrespectful attitude will affect employee motivation and morale.
  • You focus on negative aspects. Constructive feedback is not always negative. If all the feedback you give is negative, your employees will be demoralized.

How can you correct your feedback?

Feedback should be timely, given as soon as possible after a situation. When you provide feedback that is clear, respectful, encouraging, and concise the recipients will take it up and apply it.

Also, with coaching you can learn how to handle situations better, including how you can analyze them to come up with solutions that can help in problem-solving. Consult with leadership coaches to help you polish up your approaches and ensure you are on the same page with your team.

Want to read more from us? Subscribe to our newsletter to read our latest resources

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

7. Lack of Vision and Direction

Vision guides a company in creating coherent strategy and drive toward desired results. However, a lack of vision can cause a company to collapse in the long run.

Lack of vision is a major leadership weakness. A bad leader is judged by how they work in the leadership position they occupy and one of the biggest factors they can miss is vision.

How do you know that you lack vision and direction?

  • You are stuck on the past. You always reminisce the past, for example: "We've always done it this way." This mentality limits innovation and creativity and it undermines your ability to improve.
  • You lack the courage to take risks. You may fear uncertainties and get busy focusing on keeping things the same, missing opportunities to drive positive change.

How do you lead with vision and direction?

Leading with vision and direction requires excellent planning. To convince your staff or employees to follow your lead, you need to give them something to work with, or an objective to accomplish.

So, how exactly do you do that?

Here are some pointers:

  • Analyze the position your company is in and identify where you want to go.
  • Pinpoint the primary mission of the company, then tie it with your team members' clear directives to drive their efforts and inspire passion.
  • Lastly, commit to your vision. Use it as a continuous reference in team meetings. This keeps others motivated towards achieving the end-term goal.

8. Micromanagement

Micromanaging is one of the common leadership weaknesses that leaders have. It can help you produce short time results, but in the long run, it might have negative consequences. It might create an environment of low confidence and insecurity as people will feel like they're not doing anything right.

Here are some signs you are a micromanager:

  • You double-check everyone's work.
  • You delegate every single detail about the completion of a task.
  • You constantly request to be updated on every step of the process.
  • You are never satisfied by everyone's output.

How do you correct mismanagement?

You have found out you are a micromanager, what efforts can you take up to correct this behavior?

Try the following:

  • Delegate tasks and don't follow up on how they should be done.
  • Have clear goals that need to be achieved at the end of a project. Don't overanalyze every situation by trying to give your opinion on every aspect.
  • Lastly, try building a relationship with your employees by having an open-door policy so that they can approach you for any tips.

9. Absence of Accountability

Accountability is a key pillar to success; it guides you to hold yourself responsible for every action that you take. The absence of it can derail the performance of the company.

What are the signs that you lack accountability?

They include:

  • You lack self-awareness. You may be too confident in your abilities and then hold others to higher standards than you're unable to achieve yourself.
  • You have excuses. You blame your team members for your issues and problems. You come with a list of excuses why your plan did not work. For instance: "We didn't have enough time" or "The team did not follow my plans."

How to correct absence of accountability:

If you want to create change, improve performance, or encourage a good company culture, accountability is vital. Increased accountability results in improved performance, stronger dedication to work, and heightened motivation.

Also, work on your self-awareness. If you want to hold your team or staff accountable, you should start by being responsible for every action you take.

For More Tips: How to Improve Self-Awareness.

10. Lack of Empathy

When you lack empathy, the disconnect between you and your team members will grow. They will feel like you don't take their feelings into account.

Lack of empathy in the workplace can lead to toxic relationships, burnout, high turnover rates, difficulty achieving goals, and reputation problems.

How do you correct a lack of empathy?

Empathy is innate, but can also be learned over time. This means you can improve your empathy skills. But how can you do it?

Here are some ways you can improve your empathy:

  • You can ask for feedback. Consult your close colleagues or friends about your relationship skills and continue to consult with them regularly to see if you're improving.
  • Look at things from other people's perspectives. Talk to your team about their concerns and issues and look at their things from their perspectives.
Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.
Thank you! Your Downloads is here:
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Andrew Langat
Facebook logoTwitter logo
Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.