How to Avoid Employing an Incompetent Leader: A Guide for Leaders and Managers

Leadership plays a pivotal role in determining success or failure in a business. A leader’s impact permeates through teams, shaping culture, productivity, and ultimately, the bottom line. Recognising the signs of incompetence in potential leaders before they assume critical roles is a skill every leader and business owner should possess.

As an experienced executive leadership coach, I’ve witnessed firsthand the fallout of poor leadership choices and can guide you through the red flags that should give you pause. It was one of the reasons that I developed our leadership assessment – the Velocity Leadership CheckPoint (VLC) – to assess 25 key behavioural leadership traits, which is used both as a recruitment indicator and a start point for our Executive Leadership Coaching programs.

I have highlighted 19 points (I know – I really wanted 20 or 21!) to consider when recruiting or interviewing for a new leader or manager in your business, and the relevant Velocity Leadership CheckPoint score that could reinforce or back up your questions and instincts.

1. Lack of Self-Awareness:

Incompetent leaders often lack self-awareness. During interviews or assessments, observe how candidates reflect on their past experiences, acknowledge their mistakes, and demonstrate a commitment to personal growth. Leaders who can’t recognise their own shortcomings may struggle to adapt and improve.

VLC Score: Self-Awareness

2. Limited Adaptability:

Leaders who resist change or exhibit a rigid mindset may find it challenging to navigate dynamic challenges. Assess a candidate’s adaptability by discussing instances where they faced unexpected hurdles and the strategies they employed to overcome them.

VLC Score: Adaptability

3. Poor Communication Skills:

Effective communication is the lifeblood of successful leadership. Pay attention to a candidate’s ability to articulate ideas, actively listen, and provide constructive feedback. Leaders who struggle to communicate clearly may sow confusion within their teams, and seek to blame others later.

VLC Score: Active Listening, Verbal Communication

The Velocity Leadership CheckPoint Is The Start Point For An Emerging Leaders Program4. Inability to Build Strong Relationships:

Leadership is a relationship-driven endeavour. Leaders who fail to build rapport, trust, and collaboration within their teams may struggle to inspire loyalty and motivation. Probe candidates on their past experiences in team settings and their approach to fostering positive relationships.

5. Resistance to Feedback:

A leader’s journey involves continuous growth, and feedback is an integral part of that process. Beware of candidates who bristle at the idea of receiving constructive criticism or who seem closed off to different perspectives. Effective leaders embrace feedback as a tool for improvement. Also ask for examples of how they given constructive feedback – is it to ‘build up’ or ‘pull down’ a team member?

VLC Score: Constructive Feedback

6. Micromanagement Tendencies:

Micromanagement stifles innovation and demoralises teams. During the recruitment process, assess a candidate’s approach to delegation and empowerment. Leaders who struggle to trust their teams will limit your businesses ability to grow.

VLC Score: Empowerment

7. Inability to Inspire and Motivate:

Great leaders inspire others to achieve their best. Look for candidates who can share stories of motivating their teams, fostering a positive work environment, and celebrating successes. Leaders who lack the ability to inspire may struggle to galvanise their teams toward common goals.

VLC Score: Influence

8. Ego-driven Decision Making:

Leaders who prioritise the greater good of the team and the organisation over their personal ambitions provide greater benefit to your organisation. Be wary of candidates who consistently showcase decisions driven by ego (listen for ‘I’ statements rather than ‘we’ statements) rather than a genuine commitment to the organisation’s success.

VLC Score: Planning, Problem Solving

9. Attitude to Learning:

What is their attitude to leadership coaching and training? In my experience, the worst / incompetent leaders have a narcissistic streak that results in a ‘I already know it all’ attitude, and they are unlikely to accept any form of training for themselves. The best leaders almost always seek further coaching / training to develop their skills.

10. Inconsistent Values Alignment:

A leader’s values should align with those of the organisation. Look for candidates who can articulate their core values and demonstrate how they align with your business mission and purpose. Misalignment in values can lead to cultural clashes and decreased team morale.

11. Overemphasis on Authority:

Leadership isn’t about wielding authority; it’s about influencing and inspiring. Leaders who place too much emphasis on their title or position may struggle to earn the genuine respect and loyalty of their teams.

VLC Score: Responsibility & Accountability (score differential)

You Must Start With Leadership If You Want To Work On (And Not In) Your Business12. Neglect of Employee Development:

Competent leaders prioritise the growth and development of their team members. Ask candidates about their experiences in developing and mentoring others. Leaders who neglect this aspect may hinder the overall progression of the organisation.

13. High Turnover in Past Teams:

A history of high turnover within a candidate’s past teams can be a glaring red flag. Investigate the reasons behind team members leaving and discern whether they point to leadership shortcomings.

14. Limited Resilience:

Leadership is often synonymous with resilience. Inquire about a candidate’s experiences in overcoming setbacks and challenges. Leaders who crumble under pressure may not be equipped to steer the ship through turbulent waters.

VLC Score: Resilience, Commitment

15. Inadequate Conflict Resolution Skills:

Conflict is inevitable in any workplace. Leaders who lack the ability to navigate and resolve conflicts may allow issues to fester, leading to a toxic work environment. Where has the leader sought to create an environment for robust conversations? Do they have the ability to diffuse tension or do they seem to create it?

VLC Score: Constructive Feedback

16. Failure to Set Clear Expectations:

Leaders should provide clear guidance and expectations for their teams. Candidates who struggle to articulate how they set expectations and communicate goals may face challenges in leading effectively.

17. Poor Time Management:

Time is a valuable resource, and leaders must manage it wisely. Assess a candidate’s time management skills by exploring how they prioritise tasks, delegate responsibilities, and handle competing demands.

VLC Score: Time Management

18. Lack of Empathy:

Empathy is a cornerstone of effective leadership. Leaders who cannot empathise with their team members may struggle to understand and address the diverse needs of their workforce.

VLC Score: Empathy

19. Inability to Learn from Failures:

Failure is an inevitable part of leadership. Leaders who cannot extract lessons from failures and adapt their approach may repeat the same mistakes, hindering the organisation’s progress.

Avoiding the pitfalls of hiring an incompetent leader requires a keen eye for behavioural cues and a thorough assessment of a candidate’s past experiences. As a leader, manager or small business owner, invest time in probing beyond resumes and skill sets, delving into the nuances of a candidate’s leadership style and mindset. This can be done with planning and consideration of factors such as the list above, delving into what drives you ‘gut feel’, and backing it up with data from a tool like the Velocity Leadership CheckPoint. The future success of your business depends on the quality of its leaders, and your discernment can be a crucial factor in steering it.

Looking to Recruit a New Leader To Your Business?

As highlighted in the article, the Velocity Leadership CheckPoint can provide some crucial indicators of a leaders performance and ability as part of a recruitment process. The Velocity Leadership Checkpoint considers 25 behavioural leadership traits (including the ones listed above in the article), focussed in 5 distinct leadership capabilities: Achievement, Alignment, Awareness, Altitude, and Adaptability. This allows you to gain a clear understanding of your current performance and provides a platform for growth and development.

Velocity Leadership CheckPoint - Leadership Assessment Tool for Leaders
The Velocity Leadership CheckPoint Is The Start Point For Leaders Programs and Executive Leadership Coaching

If you think the Velocity Leadership CheckPoint could be useful for you or business, connect through the Contact Page, follow the link to chat via Calendly or reach me at michael@developingleaders.com.au


Teamwork Is The Ultimate Competitive Advantage For Leaders

True teamwork is so powerful and it is rare – when team members trust each other enough to have robust debates on issues for the business and for their personal development, without letting ego or status get in the way of good debate. Patrick Lencioni discusses this behaviour in depth in his fantastic book, ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’. Does your team have full and frank discussions that generate robust debate and challenge new ideas and thinking?

  • The type of conversation that can get heated and stay controlled at the same time?
  • Where everyone knows the conversation is to raise things up, not pull each other down?

It is a rare workplace that has it – and if you don’t it can be practised and learnt. Many businesses have teams that don’t have the basic tenets of trust between team members – or leadership team members – so there is very little of the proper, robust conversations that lead to great outcomes.
It is bogged down in ‘artificial harmony’ or petty personal exchanges that avoid the real issues around execution and accountability.

Will your team stay ‘good’, ‘average’, ‘6 out of 10’ for 2024? Or will you challenge them to be 8+? Will your teamwork be thought of as a competitive advantage?

Want to make a difference to your Executive Team for 2024?

Want to make a difference for Executive or Leadership Team performance for 2024? Then undertake Developing Leaders High-Performance Team workshops. The workshops are a challenging series of events to build your teamwork and are not for the faint hearted – and like most things the value is in the work that is completed and the discussions that take place. Avoiding the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team takes effort, particularly from the leader, which is why so many team shy away and continue to under-perform.


Are You Avoiding The Work To Improve Your Leadership?

Questioning if you are doing leadership ‘right’? When it comes to leading your business / team / culture – do you feel like an imposter? Perhaps it is time to ask yourself if you are doing the work or avoiding the work – and if your team is missing out on the magic that your great leadership could bring.

The leadership magic you are looking is in the work you are avoiding
People romanticise their plans but dread the execution. Bri Stevens was onto something with this quote! A powerful reminder that the path to growth and transformation is often through the things we fear the most.

When it comes to leadership development, there is no ‘magic pill’ that will make you a successful, credible, authentic leader. It takes practice, learning, reflection – a mistakes along the way – and some more learning, reflection and execution. That said – leadership can be taught and leadership can be learnt – and it takes work. Are you doing the work or avoiding the work?

What are you avoiding in the work you need to do? What action can you take to rectify the situation? Do you need to take a step back and review, or do you need to ask for help on something you are stuck on?

There are very few people immune to avoiding certain parts of our work – myself included. This quote hit home (hard!) on two pieces of work that have been sitting in the background – important but not urgent work. Work that when done, would / could make a huge difference to the other work that I do. But it is a stretch – will take me out of my comfort zone – and there is a chance it won’t work how I want it to – and that is part (not all) of the reason for my avoidance.
What is the work that you are avoiding?

Need Help in Developing Your Leadership Skills?

We can help you build the leadership skills and behaviours you need to successfully lead your team with confidence. We understand the lack of confidence and ‘imposter syndrome’ that can come with leading others in a stressful environment without having the necessary leadership and management skills taught to you. Just like many of you, we were thrust into leadership positions before we were ready, and had to sink or swim – much of the time we had our hand in the air signifying we were drowning, not waving. But your experience doesn’t need to be like ours – you can take the safe, practical, tried and tested leadership skills we have developed over time and apply them with your team.

Through our Executive Leadership Coaching, Leadership Programs and Leadership workshops, we can work with you to bring you back on track, feel confident in your leadership position, and become a leader that others choose follow.

Simply fill out some basic details on the Contact Page and we will be in touch to get you started on a confident leadership experience.

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Can You Change The Mind Of Your Leader?

Can you change the mind of your leader? Have you ever watched or heard someone, and on the one hand completely, wholeheartedly agree with one point, then violently disagree with the very next point? That is how I felt when watching this Simon Sinek video. Simon has some wonderful insights and thoughts on leadership, and several more in this video, as well as one I disagree with.

When asked: ‘Can you change the mind of your leader?’ he provides two contrasting perspectives – starting with ‘you can’t change their minds’. Then follows with:

‘Be the leader you wish you had’ ✅ and

‘Don’t worry about convincing other people’, ‘You cannot change their point of view’❌

Some thoughts:

‘Be the leader you wish you had’ ✅

I love this point – in the face of poor leadership or leadership that disappoints you, there is no need for it to bring your leadership down to their level. You can maintain standards, support your team the way you would like to be supported, communicate the way you would like to be communicated to – and they will appreciate it all the more. We don’t always work for perfect leaders – often they are doing the best they can with what they have. You may have more experience, more drive, better team skills – you can still share those with your team.

‘Don’t worry about convincing other people’, ‘You cannot change their point of view’ ❌

With this point, I completely disagree. With solid arguments and points of view, with repeated behaviour over time, with explaining your reasoning, you can influence others.

This takes effort – as well as getting over the frustration of feeling like you are ‘teaching’ your boss, or that ‘they should know how to do this because they are my leader’.

Good leaders can convince and change the behaviours of others through their good example, through their excellent communication and through their devotion to their team.

That said – it doesn’t work every time. Some leaders are too focussed on their own path to be changed by others – so convinced they are right they cannot seek an alternative path.

While you can’t change the opinion / view / decision of your leader every time, it is still worth the effort to try for things you deem to be important. I have failed at this, and I have succeeded too – and the successes outweigh the failures and feel much more rewarding – not because it was a win but because of the change that it could make for the leader, the team and the business as a whole.

Our leaders – just like ourselves – are not infallible. They can make mistakes, not be presented with all of the facts, or have thoughts/opinions/details that they are blind to. As a good leader and team member ourselves, I see it as our responsibility to provide senior leaders with all perspectives, as accurately as we can provide, to make informed decisions.

In this sense, I believe:

We can change a leaders point of view by being the leader we wish we had.

Looking to change the point of view of your leader? Or are you looking to be more amenable to other people seeking to share their opinion to change yours? It’s time to consider one of Developing Leaders Leadership Workshops, as well as complete the Velocity Leadership CheckPoint – our signature leadership assessment tool.