7 Habits of Truly Immature Leaders

Sira M.

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Like many, I’ve often faced challenging situations in the workplace. However, every single unpleasant event in my career has been an invaluable life lesson that helped me grow, both as an individual and as a professional.

I’ve learned that work relationships can be hard sometimes, both with your peers and managers, but all this is part of every professional journey. Real leaders know this. They use every single challenging event as a lesson, and they make the most of it to inspire and guide others.

Weak leaders instead, tend to repeat their mistakes and often feel the need to impose their authority and apportion blame to others.

The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.
— Ronald Reagan

There are some common toxic behaviours I’ve often seen in immature leaders, that you can avoid if you want to lead others in a mature, better, and inspiring way.

They Use Triangulation

Years ago, I worked with a manager, Lara who, during our one-to-ones would always complain about one of my co-workers, Sarah. She did it any time she could talk to me privately — even during my lunch break.

I started to feel like I was her therapist.

One day Lara even warned me about Sarah. She told me Sarah had complained about me several times, and that she was probably jealous of my success. Consequently, I started to slowly resent Sarah.

However, after a few weeks, I started to notice a curious pattern.

During corporate events, Lara would ignore me and spend most of the time with Sarah. Also, Sarah wouldn’t talk to me anymore and deleted me from LinkedIn and other social media networks.

Then, I realized a part of my team wasn’t talking to me anymore. I felt like I had done something terrible — and I had no clue why, or what I had done.

In fact, I still have no clue what happened. What I know is I would have preferred Lara to confront me directly. We would have probably reached a mutual understanding.

I later learned that Lara complained to my colleagues about me, inventing things — as I suspected — and they inevitably started to dislike me.

This is called triangulation and, as Leah Fessler explains in one of her fascinating articles, it’s a form of workplace bullying. It’s a manipulative tactic often used in the workplace.

According to Leah, triangulation describes a three-pronged, corrosive relationship: I complain to you about someone I dislike, rather than directly confronting that person; subsequently, you start to dislike them too, even if you previously liked them or had no feelings towards them, one way or the other. And this is exactly what happened to me with Lara and Sarah.

What mature leaders do instead

Mature and charismatic leaders never talk negatively behind other people’s backs. They always confront them directly if they need to, and they do it assertively. They choose assertive communication over passive-aggressive behaviour.

They Are Passive-Aggressive

One day, during the same period, Lara asked me to complete a report for her; she needed it ready as soon as possible. I was very busy with another important project she had assigned to me, so I told her I would be able to deliver the report within 48 hours. She said that was fine.

The following day, while I was working on her report, she sent me an email to inform me that Sarah had already completed the job, and she didn’t need me to work on the report anymore. She then told me that Sarah also brilliantly performed some statistical tests on the report data. Consequently, she would assign reports only to her from that moment on.

Instead of telling me directly that she needed the work done earlier than 48 hours, she decided to punish me through her actions. This is an example of passive-aggressive behaviour.

According to Signe Whitson, passive aggression is a deliberate, yet covert way of expressing feelings of anger. Instead of communicating what bothers them or what they dislike, passive-aggressive people express themselves indirectly, through a range of actions or behaviours usually meant to “get back” at another person.

What mature leaders do instead

Mature leaders always communicate their expectations and point of view clearly. They would never penalize you by “downgrading” you or taking away tasks and responsibilities from you. If they feel something is wrong, they will want to work towards finding an appropriate solution with you.

They Give You the Silent Treatment

The silent treatment happens when someone completely ignores you by resorting to silence, especially as a means of expressing disapproval. This goes hand in hand with passive-aggressive behaviour.

Immature leaders often have the habit of giving you the silent treatment when they don’t get what they want. Then, when you ask them what’s wrong, they tell you everything is fine. So, you have no clue what is going on.

A perfect example of this is something that happened to me with a manager I was working with when I started my career in Rome. One day she invited me to a corporate event, but I had to decline as I already had planned a trip that week. She got so upset that from that day on, whenever I walked into her in the office and said “Hi” she wouldn’t respond.

One day I confronted her, telling her I noticed a change in her behaviour towards me after I declined her invitation, and asking if there was something she wanted to tell me. She responded that everything was fine, and it was all in my head. I knew that wasn’t true, but I chose not to pursue the matter as it was clear she wasn’t going to talk to me.

What mature leaders do instead

First of all, mature leaders don’t get upset over small stuff; they understand people sometimes have priorities and care about their work-life balance. Also, if for some reason they believe you behaved disrespectfully, they will openly talk to you, and use assertive communication.

They See Your Messages and Don’t Respond

If there’s something I truly appreciate about my actual manager is he always replies to my messages. He’s one of those who usually come back to you very quickly.

I know that if I have an emergency I can rely on him, and I consider myself lucky. However, during my career, I’ve also dealt with managers who took hours — even days — to reply, or who sometimes saw my message but didn’t respond. Honestly, I felt they were not reliable.

Not responding to a message is inconsiderate, and when it comes to the workplace, it’s unprofessional, especially if you are supposed to set a good example and act as a model for others.

What mature leaders do instead

True leaders know the importance of acknowledging other people’s messages because it’s a matter of common courtesy and respect. They lead by example and always get back to you in a timely matter.

They Blame Others

Weak leaders struggle with accountability and often shift the blame onto others. I remember that, before retiring, my aunt had a challenging situation at the office. Her boss — a young diplomat in her early career — was delegating almost everything to her and used to micromanage her all the time.

Also, anytime something went wrong, she blamed my aunt — often in front of everyone. She never took accountability for her mistakes. One day she showed up late at the office and blamed my aunt for not calling her and wake her up.

As you can imagine, that situation was unbearable and was one of the reasons for my aunt’s early retirement.

What mature leaders do instead

True leaders are the ones who have the courage to recognize their mistakes. As Mike Myatt mentioned in one of his leadership articles, they always accept responsibility for failures that occur on their watch.

They Encourage You to Propose New Ideas but Then Never Validate Them

Immature leaders might tell you to be more proactive and propose brand new ideas. However, any time you come up with an innovative or brilliant idea, they’ll shut it down.

They usually use excuses such as, “The X department is already working on this” — without providing proof of that — or “Unfortunately, this doesn’t comply with our company policies.”

What mature leaders do instead

Mature leaders always find a way to encourage you to work on your ideas and to transform them into real projects. They want to empower you, give you ownership and they genuinely care about your professional growth.

They Take Credit for Your Work

I once had a manager who during our private meetings would tell me how great I was and how proud of me he was, and then would never give me credit for my achievements and ideas in front of others.

During group meetings, he would actually take the credit for ideas I knew were mine. I never confronted him on that, but I have to admit it was quite frustrating.

Recognition for your efforts and ideas is rewarding. And it’s simply fair.

What mature leaders do instead

True leaders always recognize other people’s efforts, ideas, and achievements, and, when they can, they do it in front of everybody. They truly want to see you grow, and support you in your professional development.

Final thoughts

The common denominator of immature leaders is a deep lack of self-confidence. This often translates into the need for power and authority. To gain respect, they often use fear as a control mechanism — which often backfires.

What true leaders have in common instead, is they are natural givers. They have the willingness to contribute to other people’s personal and professional development. They are confident and don’t need to control others. That’s how they earn trust and respect.

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Writer | Coach | Proud Amazonian | https://www.linkedin.com/in/sirams/

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