The Undesirable Qualities of Leaders and How to Fix Them

Blog | Leadership Development | Rise and Lead Women
March 20, 2020
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Rise and Lead Mentoring Circle Conversations During the International Women’s Day (IWD) Celebration at Elsevier

Recently, Elsevier invited me as a keynote speaker to share my signature talk on how to rise to leadership at their IWD celebration. 

IWD was celebrated worldwide on March 8, 2020, a day to celebrate women and all their achievements globally. 

The exciting thing is the fact that organizations around the world have adopted the IWD celebration as a way to show appreciation to the women in their workforce.

Elsevier, a leader in the publishing space, was one of those corporate organizations who dedicated March 9 to celebrate the women of Elsevier in Amsterdam.

During our session, we discussed how men and women could rise to leadership — and especially how we can close the gender leadership gap. 

We discovered a lot of key insights, including how to become self-aware, strategies for relationship building, how to stand out in the organization, finding mentors and becoming a mentor.

What I love most is that Elsevier has a big plan to achieve inclusion sooner, rather than later. This was shown by an elaborate presentation by Adam Travis, the Inclusion & Diversity Head. He shared factual and practical information because they genuinely want to attract and retain women and under-represented communities. Their interest in gender inclusion can also be seen in their recently published report: The Researcher Journey Through a Gender Lens (enhancing gender equity in research and their Inclusion and Diversity Advisory Board. You can read about Elsevier’s recent Report here. 

I was also excited about the number of women of colour in the room—a number I’ve yet to see in other major corporations in the Netherlands. The Mentoring Circle session  was conducted after I shared the “5 Steps to Your Rise to Leadership”, using a system I call “Your Leadership Stepladder”. The small group circle conversation turned out to be a fruitful exercise.

Corporates know that their biggest issues are talent issues.

In the PwC CEO survey, an annual global CEO survey conducted by PwC, they reported attracting and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges for corporate leaders around the world.

This issue has significant consequences on corporations, and retention has become a major hurdle. Talent retention has been a hot topic of discussion at almost all the events in which I’ve spoken this year.

During the Mentoring Circle Session, participants were asked to think about the qualities they admired in any leader or boss they worked for, the qualities they least admired and what their most important values are.

Each person had many things to share. Here are the top qualities:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Empathy
  3. Integrity
  4. Humanity
  5. Consideration of others
  6. Ability to listen
  7. Transparency
  8. Clear communication
  9. Kindness
  10. Inclusion
  11. Supportiveness
  12. Recognizing team and individual contribution
  13. Self-awareness
  14. Honesty
  15. Encouragement
  16. Expertise

On the other end, the not so desirable qualities as described by some female employees from Elsevier include:

  1. Personal interest above team interest
  2. Lack of ability to take responsibility
  3. Gossiping
  4. Not practicing what you preach
  5. Lack of practical experience
  6. Lack of empathy
  7. Dishonesty
  8. Bullying
  9. Unavailability
  10. Unpredictability
  11. Poor listening skills
  12. Lack of sincerity
  13. Untrustworthiness
  14. Lack of authenticity
  15. Not giving credit to others
  16. Lack of knowledge
  17. Lack of responsibility

This was an important exercise because recognizing what we like, and don’t like, in the leaders we encounter helps shape what type of leaders we want to become.

Many attendees left the room inspired to be the change they want to see.

Another important lesson we learned is that many individuals, both men and women, perceive that most organizations promote a lot of bosses who lack leadership skills. This can affect the morale and performance of individual employees and the organization as a whole. 

The good news is that organizations are ready to drive inclusion. To do this, they must invest in leadership development at all levels of the organization, from entry-level to senior leadership.

Leadership development is like character development. It would help if you map out a plan for personal leadership development.

With that, let’s get into three practical things you can start doing right away to address developing your inner leader.

          Sit down with your team and ask for feedback

This is an exercise you should frequently do, even outside of your quest for leadership, because it helps you spot your blind side. The more awareness you have on these issues, the better you can adjust your strategies and your messaging to get out in front of them.

Self-awareness does affect your bottom line, as indicated in a study from Korn/Ferry, which reported that companies whose employees have a higher level of self-awareness perform stronger financially. 

Start building relationships with diverse people in your organization

One of the most critical steps we teach our clients about increasing their leadership capacity is the ability to build relationships.

Ironically, most bosses demand loyalty and respect without first building relationships.

Loyalty is not a given; it must be earned.

You cannot expect people to give you their all without establishing that you are just as invested in their well-being. Your team members are people with their dreams and ambitions, not only tools to fulfil a purpose. Start treating them as such, if you want to earn their respect and loyalty.

Give your best performance

As a leader, people don’t follow just what you say; they mimic what you do. If they see you being inefficient, they will think it’s okay to be ineffective. If they see you come in late, they’ll come in late. If they see you don’t have an authentic passion for achieving the organization’s goals and objectives, how can you expect them to have the same? 

Giving your best performance is showing, not just telling, your team what you want to inspire in them. And it’s not just about performing at work but also looking for avenues where you can improve, both personally and professionally.

If you’d like to know the rest of the steps or dive deeper into these strategies and would like help implementing them in your own business, be sure to reach out to Ebere at

You can also join us at the Rise and Lead Summit this coming September. Click here to save your spot. 

Ebere Akadiri

Ebere Akadiri

Ebere Akadiri is an accomplished entrepreneur and an advocate for women in leadership. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women. Her mission is to inspire women to aspire to rise to leadership and unleash their potential while advocating for organisations to close the gender leadeship gap in the workplace and in the marketplace.

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