Pride. Envy. Gluttony. Lust. Anger. Greed. Sloth.

I’m sure you recognize these, either as the seven deadly sins or perhaps as themes for prime-time television. You were probably taught as a child that these are bad and you shouldn’t do them. For the purposes of this article, do as you were taught and think “bad” when you imagine yourself committing the following sins of leadership in the workplace.

Knowing the mechanics of your business is secondary to the character attributes you display in your actions.

Here are the seven deadly sins of leadership and how to avoid them.


Sin #1: Arrogance

Ever known a leader who consistently claimed to know more than the rest of the team? How about one who was unwilling to listen to opposing views?

“Wait, isn’t this just a sign of confidence? What’s wrong with that?”

As a leader, having confidence is crucial. People will look to you, particularly when things get tough. But when confidence runs amok and turns to arrogance, the leader disrespects the team.

Show respect along with confidence and you’ll do fine. Subtract out respect and you’re just an arrogant doofus.


Sin #2: Indecisiveness

So you have a teleconference on Monday and agree on a course of action. On Tuesday, the upline leader decides to take a completely different course of action. Thursday she goes back to Monday’s course of action. The following Monday you’re back re-hashing through the same problem from last week. Blech.

Decisiveness means the leader listens to those around him or her and then makes the best decision for the project that the rest of the team can understand…and sticks to it. While team members may not agree with the decision, they should be able to see the rationale. Decisions without rationale or without listening will ultimately frustrate the team and put a target on your back.


Sin #3: Disorganization

We’ve all known the leader who asks for the same information multiple times, keeps the plan in his head versus writing things down, or is so frantic that he is on the verge of spontaneously combusting. His disorganization creates unneeded stress and frustration for the project team.

The leader needs to have a clear pathway paved for everyone else involved to get from start to completion, and make sure the ball moves forward every day of the project. Disorganization leads to frustration, which leads to either empathy or anarchy.


Sin #4: Stubbornness

On one of my early project-management jobs, I was a month behind schedule on a three-month project. I refused to alter the project schedule, insisting that I could make up the time lost by cutting corners and eliminating tasks. Despite the entire project team telling me we were in deep yogurt, I stubbornly forged ahead. I ended up never seeing the end of the project—because my stubbornness got me removed as the project manager. Talk about your two-by-four across the head.

As a leader, you may believe your view of reality is the right way to go, but it’s imperative to balance your own perspective with that of the rest of the project team. Decisiveness without listening to the team leads to stubbornness.


Sin #5: Negativism

One of my peers, in his zeal to “manage expectations,” would consistently discuss the project in a negative light. The focus was always on what work

didn’t get done, what the new negative issue of the week was, or who wasn’t doing his job. His negative attitude about the work, people and purpose of the project sapped the energy, enthusiasm, and passion out of the work. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy: the project failed because the project manager willed it to fail.

This one’s simple: A glass-is-half-empty leader is going to be a horrible motivator and will sap the energy from a team. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a shiny-happy person all the time; it means that as a leader, you have to truly believe in what you are doing and positively motivate the team to get there.


Sin #6: Cowardice

Imagine the leader who, when pressed on a budget overrun or missed deadline, will blame team members, stakeholders or anyone else that could possibly have contributed to her non-performance. Much easier to play the blame game and implicate others because everything didn’t go perfectly as planned. What a weenie.

It’s perfectly okay to be self-critical and aware of your own weaknesses and mistakes. For a leader to truly continue to grow in her leadership capabilities, she needs to be the first to admit her mistakes and learn from them—not the last one to admit her mistakes.


Sin #7: Distrust

Simply put, leaders who don’t display necessary skills, show wisdom in their decisions or demonstrate integrity aren’t going to be trusted. For the team to truly have trust in their leader, they need to believe that this leader has the skills to manage the project, the wisdom to make sound business decisions, and the integrity to put the team’s interests ahead of her own.

Take any one of these attributes away, and it’s just a matter of time before the leader gets voted off the island.

LONNIE PACELLI has over 20 years of project management
experience at both Accenture and Microsoft and is
the author of
The Project Management Advisor:
18 Major Project Screw-Ups and How To
Cut Them Off At the Pass.
www.networkingtimes.com/link/pacelli