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Why Being Too Nice Is Bad for Leadership

I was talking with a leader recently. She’s an incredibly kind and gentle person. She’s smart, hard-working and loyal. She’s a relational leader and usually brings out the best in people, so she’s had success in leadership. She is currently experiencing problems in a new position and asked for my help.

In talking through the specific situation, it quickly became obvious that she has one weakness and it is currently affecting her entire team. It’s a common weakness among leaders. At times, most of us will struggle in this area.

Her weakness?

She is being too nice!

Granted, that doesn’t sound like it could ever be a weakness. And it has made her well-liked in the organization. She’s incredibly popular. And, she likes that. But it also has made her team less successful than it could be. And she knows it.

Currently, a few team members are taking advantage of her niceness by underperforming in their roles. She hasn’t challenged the problems, even though she knows she should. She’s losing sleep over it, but doesn’t know what to do. The relational leadership in her, which is a positive about her leadership style, is not working with these team members.

Perhaps you’ve seen this before in an organization. Maybe you’ve been on either side of this issue. If this is your situation, you have probably even thought or said things such as, “I gave them an inch and they took a mile.”

I am not suggesting one become a mean leader. That would be wrong. It certainly wouldn’t be biblical leadership.

I am suggesting one become a wise leader. Wisdom learns to guide people in the direction that’s best for them, the leader, and the entire team or organization. In the situation above, I advised my friend to take off her “nice hat,” at least temporarily, to address the few people causing the majority of the problems that are impacting the entire team.

As hard as it will seem at first, in the end it will be a blessing for the entire team…and my leader friend.

I have learned that people accept the ‘what’ better if they first understand the ‘why’…so then I shared with her why I feel her default niceness is causing current problems for the team.

Here are three problems with being too nice as a leader:

1. It’s bad for the leader.

The leader ends up stressing over the wrong things. Instead of worrying about the big picture, the leader is focused on a few problems with usually only a few people.

The leader feels unsuccessful, even like a failure at times, as the team achieves less than desired results.