Do you have these 4 leadership weaknesses?​

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Leaders are often thought of as extremely strong and capable men and women – visionary and leading their people to success. Think Michelle Obama who inspired a nation with her ‘Let’s Move’ campaign or the women leaders who are working tirelessly to reduce gender gaps here in Australia.

What we often forget is leaders are also human beings with their own failings. You are likely to have an idea of your leadership strengths, but have you ever considered what your leadership weakness traits are? These may be stopping you from being more successful in your career.

This article talks about four common leadership weaknesses and provides practical tips on how to deal with them, especially useful for women working in male-dominated industries.

Weakness #1: Being overly focused on wanting to be liked

What happens: You are constantly defending or rationalising your point of view and are extremely focused on wanting to be liked by team members. You are a people-pleaser.

Outcome: Your need to be liked or proven right overtakes your ability to be an effective leader. Because this is how you feel validated, it can actually signal a lack of self-esteem.

Weakness #2: An inability to share a clear goal or vision with your team or colleagues

What happens: You are detail oriented and often feel accomplished when you are ticking off tasks on your list.

Outcome: You lose sight of the bigger picture because you are so focused on to-do lists. You have difficulty articulating any sort of strategy or vision to your team. Your employees will feel more valued and engaged when they understand the purpose behind ‘why’ they are doing certain things.

Weakness #3: Being too directive

What happens: You often use directive leadership – ‘telling’ rather than showing your team what needs to be done – as a way of satisfying a need to stay in control. At its core, you may lack some self-awareness, self-belief and trust if you are too directive.

Outcome: This is a do as I say rather than do as I do style of leadership that can lead to distrust and demotivation from within your team.

Weakness #4: Lack of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, use and manage one’s emotions in positive ways to reduce stress, communicate better and understand where others are coming from.
When used well, it can help to solve challenges and conflict. According to researchers, women are often perceived as having this quality in abundance. However, in male-dominated industries it can be seen as a weakness, as it may not be found, understood or practised by people in charge.

What happens: If you lack some emotional intelligence you may blame others for difficult situations and rarely take responsibility for issues affecting your team members.

Outcome: Conflict often interferes with how well a team works. This could impact the productivity of your team or colleagues, with those working close to you not feeling like they are being listened to or supported.

How can you deal with these weaknesses as a leader?

Find out exactly which trait you need to work on before you start ‘fixing’ what may be wrong with your team. For example, if your communication style tends to be autocratic rather than collaborative then that is what needs to be fixed first.

Being aware of your communication style and knowing what needs to change is the basic issue. Once you have fixed this fundamental weakness, team culture can then be addressed.

Leaders often believe there is nothing about them that needs to change. Instead, many feel that the team members are the problem, so that is where the focus is placed. However, it is the leader who ultimately breaks or makes a team so change has to begin at the top.

Here are seven tips to help you become a stronger leader:

  1. Identify and meet the needs of your team before yours. This is what makes an ideal leader.
  2. Show what it means to succeed rather than tell. Demonstrate the right set of behaviours at all times.
  3. Have the vision in mind to keep your team motivated and understand why they are working on a particular project. Avoid being too detail-oriented.
  4. Understand your self-worth and what drives your decision making process and behaviour.
  5. Do not be fearful or egoistic when it comes to recognising what needs to change within you.
  6. Seek and listen to feedback from your boss, peers and team members. Be open and curious about what you need to work on personally.
  7. Be willing to learn and grow. Have a proactive attitude and change your circumstances if needed. Don’t wait for things to change, be the change you want to see in your team and organisation.


Did you identify with any of the four leadership weaknesses mentioned above? Have you been at the receiving end of a manager’s weakness? If so, how did you deal with it?

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Melita Ferguson is Research Manager at Women & Leadership Australia. For more about Melita, visit:

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