How (not) to be a good leader

Sindhu Murugavel
3 min readJul 20, 2020

Leadership can be situational than hierarchical. Learning to deal with it the right way can take your career and you as a person, to the next level.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


I have a mentor whom I always bug when I have a crisis — be it work, career or even personal life. This person would listen to me patiently until I come to pause and then ask me — “So, What do you want?”. It’s an easy question. I could have asked this question to myself. I do not need this person to ask me such a stupid question. Honestly, when you are at a high point in a problem, you do not have much patience to ask yourself that question — hence you approach the mentor. This would make me think out loud — which will create another discussion with a lot of questions shot at me. At the end, I would come to a decision that “I” made. It is very important to drive people to make their own decisions — To be an enabler and not a decision maker for them.

  • Do — Ask the right questions, understand the problem, drive them to make the right decision rather than giving them the answer.
  • Don’t — Talk about irrelevant information and ignore the original question.


You will not find a single person in this world who doesn’t have at least one complaint about their job. To be helpful, is to just lend an ear. Most times, people do not look to you to fix their problem. Rather they just need you to pay attention.

  • Do — Listen! Sometimes they want someone to just hear them, sometimes they want help. Address accordingly.
  • Don’t — Miss to listen/act on it.


Countless hours of our workday is spent going through email — whether useful or not is an entirely different question. I have noticed so many people sifting through emails and postponing items that requires their action to another time/day. My principle is — if you have a second to read the email/IM, you can spend another second responding real quick, unless its a super important email which requires lot of thought.

  • Do — Reply promptly. If you are not able to, make a note and respond as soon as you can.
  • Don’t — Forget that it ever happened.


Even people who think appreciating others for the tiniest thing is a joke would definitely want to get appreciated themselves. This need not come from a supervisor. A small thank you email or an e-card to your peer goes a long way.

  • Do — Appreciate them among peers and superiors. Make them feel valued.
  • Don’t — Tell them how you could have done this better


As a lead architect, I spend a lot of time convincing people or getting convinced on a solution. This process is usually difficult. Over time, I have come to see that it is pretty straight forward if you have a civil conversation without any preconceived notion. Simply “care” about what the other folks in the conversation have to say.

  • Do — Breath and step into the other person’s shoes. See the reasoning behind why they are saying something you don’t like.
  • Don’t — Fight over who is smarter than whom.


After wasting half my life in meetings , I am acclimated to how they work in the corporate world. I say “wasting” because most meetings aren’t result oriented. The reason to have meetings has been lost in principle. The purpose of a meeting is to reach a goal — could be a consensus of parties, get approval or solve a problem.

  • Do — Drive meeting towards a goal. Having an agenda can help both you and your attendees to come prepared.
  • Don’t — chat about worldly things.


No matter how much of a right fit the person is for a certain job, it is important to see where their heart is. People are naturally looking to move forward in their careers. The right thing to do is to talk things out and see if you are able to help them grow in your organization.

  • Do — Encourage them to have a career plan. Help them take their next big move.
  • Don’t — Make them feel guilty for leaving. The focus should be on how to add value to their career.