14 Micro-Behaviors That Can Undermine Your Leadership Potential

We've gathered insights from leaders—from a CEO to an executive coach—to reveal 14 critical micro-behaviors that could make or break your leadership potential

In the quest to become a great leader, even the smallest actions can have a significant impact. We’ve gathered insights from leaders—from a CEO to an executive coach—to reveal 14 critical micro-behaviors that could make or break your leadership potential. From overworking to show leadership to interrupting others, these professionals shed light on the subtle nuances that define true leadership.


Leaders need to be masters in how to prioritize what matters, strategically ignore unnecessary meetings and distractions, delegate projects to grow leaders, automate to improve systems, and integrate tasks that can cut workloads in half or combine teams.

Leaders protect their time and space for deliberation, decision-making, learning, and coaching. When young managers with potential do too much in an effort to get noticed as leaders, well, they’re being noticed—but for undervaluing their time.

Dale Vaughn, Executive Communications, Microsoft


Manage your emotions; don’t let your emotions manage you. Successful leaders bounce back faster when adversity strikes because they look for the silver lining behind the adverse event, strategically rewriting the story, leaning into acceptance, and shifting their perspective so they can be open to opportunities that they weren’t aware of before. 

Here are some mind-shifting prompts that could help you rewrite the plot twist you suddenly find yourself navigating. What learning can I claim here? What about this situation is an opportunity for me to use my creativity? What options will give me the best results? What about this obstacle can fuel my future goals? What resources can I bring to this challenge?

Andrea DeWitt, Author, Speaker, and Leadership Coach, Andrea DeWitt Advisors Coaching


Failing to actively listen—being attentive without distractions—speaks volumes! It is perceived as a lack of caring and trust, which diminishes morale and effective communication. Active listening is crucial for building a positive workplace culture and promoting a collaborative environment, both of which are essential to being an effective leader.

Dawn Myers, Leadership Coach and HR Consultant, Dawn Myers Consulting


A leader’s role is to make decisions, even the difficult ones. If you consistently avoid decision-making or over-rely on others to make choices, it doesn’t just reflect indecisiveness; it fundamentally undermines your authority and the confidence your leadership has in you. Strong leadership requires the courage to make decisions and stand by them.

When you avoid making decisions, you’re essentially abdicating your role and power. This can lead to a lack of direction, confusion, and decreased morale among your team. It also prevents you from setting a clear vision and goals, which are vital for team alignment and success.

Remember, every decision you make—or don’t make—shapes your leadership narrative and future opportunities.

Allison Dunn, CEO, Head Business and Executive Coach, Deliberate Directions


Multitasking, often perceived as a valuable skill, can undermine an individual’s chance to be a leader, or to be an effective leader. Engaging in multiple tasks simultaneously can lead to divided attention, compromising the quality of decision-making, communication, and work output. Leaders need to focus on the bigger picture, understand the nuances of situations, and provide guidance accordingly. Multitasking may hinder this process by fragmenting their attention and preventing deep engagement with critical issues.

Successful leadership often involves being present, both physically and mentally, in crucial moments, and multitasking can detract from this essential aspect. People have a need to be seen, valued, and heard, and if they never have your full attention, it impacts the relationship. In essence, while multitasking may seem like a productivity booster, it can compromise the very qualities that define strong leadership—connection, trust, prioritization, and quality work output.

Shaina Lane, Owner, Certified Executive Coach, Premier Professional Coaching


An important microbehavior to be aware of is the tone of your message, whether this be in person or by email. When individuals respond in a snarky or demanding manner, it is representing their brand. Even if they disagree with a decision or message, a tone of respect and integrity should be communicated at all times. 

So much stress and uncertainty are causing individuals to be overwhelmed, and at times, it’s easy to forget your presence. Individuals respond out of frustration and pass on secondhand stress to others, which can undermine their opportunity to be seen as a leader.

Beth Kennedy, Leadership Coach, TEDx Speaker, and Trainer, Benatti Leadership Development


Unfortunately, there are lots of ways that we can undermine our chances at leadership. Some of those are obvious, large mistakes, but some are more subtle. For many women that I have worked with, people pleasing can be one way that they hold themselves back from leadership. On the surface, taking on every project, saying yes to every ask, being the cheerleader for every initiative, can look like a “great positive attitude” or “being a team player.” 

However, these behaviors work against you in multiple ways. Not only do they lead to burnout and resentment, but can also mean you do not have time to think more strategically or build authentic relationships with others at work. In addition, they do not demonstrate original, decisive, or independent thinking. 

People pleasing might make you “liked” at work, but being liked is not the same as being a leader. Saying no intentionally, behaving in a way that lines up with what you say, and standing up for what you believe in are much better ways to rise to the top.

Anne Welsh, Clinical Psychologist and Executive Coach, Dr. Anne Welsh


A history of being slightly late with deadlines or a bit off with forecasting can seem like it’s not a big deal, and that everyone makes mistakes occasionally. And you’d be right. Being late or wrong occasionally isn’t the end of the world.

However, it becomes problematic when it happens consistently. You say you’ll finish by noon but don’t finish until 4 p.m. Or, you say you’ll round up the project on Thursday but end up finishing on Friday.

It may not have a major impact on you or those around you in the short term, but it builds a reputation that you’re unreliable and, by extension, a bit incompetent.

Unreliable people aren’t put in positions of leadership.

Daniel Ndukwu, CMO and Co-founder, DoxFlowy


One micro-behavior that will undermine your chance to be a leader is allowing your emotions to get the better of you. Now, a lot of people think that this means they break down at any sign of excessive stress, but it can be a lot more subtle than that. 

Many people start getting frustrated with certain aspects of their job, and that frustration can impact the way they work, the decisions they make, etc. Leaders should be capable of handling stress and difficult situations. You need to look at things logically and objectively before making any major decisions because it can have significant knock-on effects throughout the company. 

So, if you notice that you frequently get frustrated or upset by things, start making moves to look at those things in a different, more strategic light. It might just help you change your mindset and work more toward becoming a great leader.

Lauren Carlstrom, COO, Oxygen Plus


Natural leaders often take the lead, even among their peers. However, if you don’t leave enough space for others to challenge themselves and strive for more, you limit their chance to grow. 

Most of us want to feel our contributions are valuable, so if you’re too busy doing all the work because you like to maintain control, you rob them of that opportunity. Great leaders empower their team to do better and support them in their growth. If you regularly take on too much of a project and struggle to let there be balance, leaders may see that as a precursor to micromanagement.

Robert Kaskel, Chief People Officer, Checkr


Gossiping and talking poorly about others behind their backs is one behavior I’ve seen torpedo the careers of otherwise strong potential leaders. I have even seen established leaders give in to this impulse and have their authority undermined as a result. 

It is natural to get frustrated or annoyed with the behavior of other people. However, a true leader will not discuss these things when the person isn’t around. If the problem is legitimate and the individual needs to fix it, a genuine leader will go straight to that person and give them feedback directly so that they can improve themselves. An effective leader can also identify when the issue is simply a personal pet peeve and knows how to deal with those emotions without resorting to venting and gossiping about their colleague. 

The reason this is such damaging behavior for a leader is that it erodes trust. When you talk poorly about others, the people you’re talking to can’t help but wonder what you say about them when they’re not around. It can also be seen as demonstrating a lack of self-control and discretion, which can be concerning for company leaders when they’re determining who to promote into an open leadership role.

Rob Boyle, Marketing Operations Director, Airswift


When I first started leading Promodo’s marketing team, I fell into the common assumption that closely monitoring everyone was a sure way to ensure efficiency and accuracy. I occasionally checked in on the team, scrutinizing every detail of their work, without realizing it was counterproductive. 

Team members spent more time reporting to me about their progress than doing their allocated tasks. In a few months, the morale in my team had dipped, and the work environment was tense as the team felt autonomy was declining and I didn’t trust their skills. Micromanagement was undermining my chance to be a leader. 

Luckily, I caught it quickly and replaced micromanagement with trust and empowerment. I started checking in less and gave my team time to handle their tasks. I emphasized that I trusted their skills and that my role was to guide and support them. This transformation allowed for creativity and productivity and restored trust within the team.

Valerie Lavska, CMO, Promodo


When executives fail to transparently convey company goals, decisions, or changes, employees may feel disconnected and undervalued for their work or input. This lack of clear communication about expectations, strategies, or the rationale behind decisions can lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and disengagement among the workforce. Establishing open channels for communication, providing context, and actively seeking employee feedback can mitigate tension, fostering a more collaborative work environment. 

The absence of feedback loops exacerbates tension. When employees don’t have avenues for their input to be heard or considered, it can foster a sense of disempowerment. Leaders should create mechanisms for regular feedback, whether through surveys, town-hall meetings, or open-door policies. A transparent and two-way communication culture is pivotal in building trust, aligning your company’s vision, and mitigating potential conflicts from communication disparities.

Joanne Demeireles, CXO, Oula Health


The one micro-behavior that undermines your chance to be a leader is not letting someone finish a point. 

Too often, leaders and would-be leaders are so eager to get their point across that they interrupt others. While this can happen in the normal flow of conversation, your chance to be an effective leader is hampered by not letting others finish their thoughts. Letting others speak, even if you disagree with them, demonstrates your command of the room and your personal emotional regulation—all skills leaders must have to be effective. 

This micro-behavior is not only rude but also undermines the person providing the opinion. Colleagues or employees who are continually interrupted eventually stop talking. The lack of talking means new ideas and the challenging of established ideas will cease. And when that happens, any hope of being a leader, a successful leader, has been undermined.

Andrew Lee, Keynote Speaker, CareerUnlocked Inc.

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