7 Things Good Leaders Just Don’t Say

#3. “If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask for it”

Max Klein


Credit: Zigres on Shutterstock

“No, that’s dumb, what else?” my old boss asked during a brainstorming session.

The new employee who offered the idea visibly shrunk down in her chair and didn’t offer any more ideas that day. His obtuse and dismissive response to an idea that may not have been the best had a damaging effect on her creativity and confidence.

He should have just said “OK, thanks, let’s keep these ideas coming!” or something like that. Being honest is part of leadership, but much more effective when tact accompanies the honesty.

If a boss wants people to be creative and find the best solutions to problems they need to be willing to hear many bad ideas if they want the best ideas to rise to the top.

As someone who has studied and practiced leadership in corporate, military, and volunteer settings for over 20 years, I have seen leaders say some unproductive and even damaging things.

Here are a few of them.

#1. “Bring Me Solutions, Not Problems”

This sentiment comes from an understandable place in that you want to say “hey, don’t just sit here crying about a problem, what ideas do you have to fix it?”

But it can be taken too far or misunderstood. Some bosses and employees take this as “don’t bring me any problems.” or “I only want to hear good news.” Both are unproductive sentiments.

Instead say “We’re going to run into problems, don’t hesitate to bring them to me, but also bring your ideas for solutions and we’ll work this out together.”

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” — General Colin Powell

#2. “Because I’m the Boss and I Said So”

Leaning on rank, like leaning on fear, is the cheapest and least effective form of leadership.

It may work at that moment, but it sparks resentment that will fester and grow and could…