How to Avoid Becoming a Villain — 6 Leadership Traits You Must Avoid Learn essential leadership traits you must avoid to be an effective and successful leader and avoid the six most damaging traits that can lead you down the path of becoming a villain.

By Lola Salvador Akinwunmi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Leadership is a complex and multifaceted concept that requires a delicate balance of traits and actions. While many qualities make a great leader, several traits or actions can quickly destroy a leader's effectiveness and credibility. The most outstanding leaders throughout history have used their status and charisma to inspire hope, empower others and create positive change.

All too often, however, ambition coupled with unchecked power results in a descent into villainy — ruthless individuals hell-bent on bending the world to their own will. To shine a beacon of light instead of darkness, today's leaders must actively avoid succumbing to traits that can lead down this dark path and become inspirational leaders who value honesty and integrity above all else — not someone remembered as a modern-day despot.

Related: 6 Telltale Signs of Bad Leadership

1. Lack of integrity

Integrity is the cornerstone of effective leadership. A leader who lacks integrity is unlikely to earn the trust and respect of their followers, which can ultimately lead to a breakdown in communication and collaboration. There are many ways in which a leader can demonstrate a lack of integrity, from dishonesty and deceit to a failure to follow through on promises or commitments.

One of the most common ways leaders demonstrate a lack of integrity is by failing to admit their mistakes. When a leader refuses to acknowledge their shortcomings or take responsibility for their actions, it sends a message to their followers that they are not willing to be held accountable for their decisions. This can create a culture of mistrust and resentment, which can be incredibly damaging to a team's morale and productivity.

Another way leaders can demonstrate a lack of integrity is by engaging in unethical or illegal behavior. This can include everything from embezzlement and fraud to sexual harassment and discrimination. When a leader engages in this type of behavior, it damages their reputation and tarnishes the reputation of their organization as a whole.

2. Lack of empathy

Empathy is another critical trait that is essential for effective leadership. A leader who lacks empathy is unlikely to be able to connect with their followers on a meaningful level, which can make it challenging to inspire and motivate them. When a leader cannot understand or relate to the concerns and needs of their followers, it can create a sense of detachment and disengagement that can be incredibly damaging to team dynamics.

One of the most common ways leaders demonstrate a lack of empathy is by failing to listen to their followers. When a leader is more focused on their agenda or priorities than on the needs of their team, it can create a sense of frustration and resentment that can ultimately lead to high turnover rates and poor performance.

Another way leaders can demonstrate a lack of empathy is by failing to provide adequate support or resources to their team members. When a leader is unwilling or unable to invest in the development and well-being of their team, it can create a sense of burnout and disillusionment that can be incredibly damaging to morale and productivity.

Related: 5 Ways Bad Leadership Can Destroy Your Business

3. Inability to delegate

Delegation is an essential skill for effective leadership, as it allows leaders to focus on their core responsibilities while empowering their team members to take on new challenges and responsibilities. However, some leaders struggle with delegation because they don't trust their team members or feel they need to be in control at all times.

In a study undertaken by the University of Zurich and published in the Journal of Science, researchers identify and characterize a common decision process that may distinguish followers from leaders: Responsibility aversion or the unwillingness to make decisions affects others. When a leader is unable or unwilling to delegate, it can create a sense of frustration and resentment among their team members. Not only does this limit the growth and development of individual team members, but it also prevents the organization from realizing its full potential.

4. Lack of vision

Effective leadership requires a clear vision and direction for the organization. When a leader lacks a clear vision, it can create confusion and uncertainty among their followers, making it difficult to establish goals and priorities. Without a clear sense of direction, teams can become mired in indecision and be less effective over time.

One of the most common ways leaders demonstrate a lack of vision is by failing to communicate effectively with their team members. When a leader cannot articulate their goals and priorities clearly and concisely, it can create a sense of ineptness.

Related: 3 Bad Leadership Habits to Leave Behind This Year

5. Arrogance

Arrogant leaders can quickly lose the trust of their team members. When a leader is dismissive or belittling of others, it creates an environment where team members are less likely to share their ideas or concerns. This can lead to a lack of communication and collaboration within the team, ultimately undermining the leader's effectiveness. A fine line exists between confidence and arrogance, and many in positions of power -- such as politicians and CEOs -- often are labeled arrogant. Although confidence can serve as both a blessing and a curse, new research from the University of Notre Dame published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows how people can reap the rewards without risking the social penalties for overconfidence.

6. Manipulation

Manipulative leaders can also limit the ability of the team to innovate and take risks. When a leader is more concerned with their agenda than the team's well-being, team members may become less willing to share new ideas or take on new challenges. This can limit the team's potential and ultimately harm the organization.

Leadership isn't just about having power and influence - it's also about using that power responsibly. The most outstanding leaders remain with us as inspirational agents of positive change, reminding and inspiring us long beyond the era in which they lived. However, great power often corrupts those who do not practice prudence or harness it for the collective good. Today's leaders must recognize this potential pitfall and rely on moral fortitude as a necessary guardrail against corruption. Leadership is a complex art, requiring fine-tuned balancing act between conviction and humbleness; ambition and integrity; wealth and morality; power and self-control. With thoughtfulness tempered by righteousness, today's leaders can use their influence to inspire others – soaring above the darkness of unchecked power toward hope-filled heights.

Wavy Line
Lola Salvador Akinwunmi

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Leadership & Reinvention Strategist

Lola Salvador Akinwunmi is a writer and leadership and reinvention strategist with a passion for helping professional women navigate the ever-changing leadership landscape. As the founder of LolaSal, Inc., she brings more than two decades of corporate experience to her clients.

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