Five Ways Leaders Fail
Organizations choose their leaders because those people have (at least on the surface) demonstrated an understanding of a particular situation and the capacity to manage it through to the desired goal. Often, however, once in office, many leaders either fail to follow through with the original plan or steer the enterprise off in an entirely different direction. On occasion the "revised" strategy results in spectacular success; unfortunately it is more common for both the "leader" and the enterprise fail.
Entities looking to avoid unnecessary failure should be aware of these five signs that their "leader" is not actually "leading the way."
1. They Disregard the Talent in the Room
Every entity relies on sharing the talents and skills of its individual members to build a greater whole. Leaders who fail to acknowledge the value of their team fail to harness that talent to empower it to achieve to its highest capacity. Undervaluing corporate talent is often demonstrated by the micromanager boss, who often has a high need for control and will create a workflow bottleneck to maintain it, even if that bottleneck causes delays or errors.
2. They Staff with Pleasers, not Doers
When corporate leaders surround themselves with a cadre of workers who only agree with them, the enterprise is possibly on a collision course with disaster. "'Yes' people" agree with the boss most of the time, even if it's their job to raise concerns or flag attention to other options or possibilities. "'Yes' people" also execute their orders blindly, with little or no independent consideration of the facts. They also often fail to speak the truth for fear they will offend the boss, even though that truth may redirect the company to a safer course of action. As a result, management acts on false information, which results in bad decision-making, and stakeholders are held in the dark about corporate realities often until it's too late to repair the damage.
Many failed leaders gain unfettered support from their staff because they only hire people who agree with them.
3. They Believe They are Irreplaceable
Because a leader's job is often immense, good leaders will delegate decisions and tasks off to trusted employees while they attend to more pressing matters. Leaders who fail to empower others to do the work often believe that they are the only people capable of managing the task. However, by doing so, they are also limiting the development of the company.
One of a leader's most relevant roles is that of 'trainer,' and good leaders work at providing their staff and employees with healthy opportunities to learn and grow on behalf of the organization. Leaders who fail to delegate projects, or who retain all decision-making authority for themselves, are failing to grow their workforce, which ultimately also means they fail at developing the company. And, when they are eventually relieved of their duties, the remaining company staff may not have the skills or abilities to keep it afloat in the aftermath.
4. They Personalize Corporate Success
Some leaders rise to the top of their organization because they have generated a long list of "achievements." As they take the helm of the business, they also bring with them the behaviors that made those achievements possible, even though the demands of the leadership role are significantly different from the demands placed on workers. Consequently, these types of leaders believe themselves to be the reason why the company has had its success, and they fail to make the behavioral changes necessary to lead, not just produce.
People who personify the company as a part of themselves are often overachievers who have used command or coercion to achieve their goals. Consequently, they are unable to shift to the collaboration and cooperation mode that most companies need from management. As workers, when focused on a project, they were able to take shortcuts and achieve project milestones without compromising the enterprise as a whole. As the leader, however, short-cutting one aspect of the company may cause unexpected and unwanted repercussions in other areas of the organization. The lesson for today's leadership-seeking enterprises is that candidates who are able to achieve success in one format don't also always have the capacity to achieve success in all formats.
5. They Ignore Obvious Signs of Problems
In hindsight, many observers wonder at how the leadership of an obviously failed organization could have missed the warning signs that disaster was imminent. Challenges to corporate wellness crop up every day and skilled leaders both recognize those concerns and develop responses to them in a timely and appropriate manner. Leaders who elect to ignore the signs are also ignoring the threat they pose to the company.
In many failed companies, inappropriate focus on short-term goals was often the cause of the failure. However, keeping an eye on day-to-day activities doesn't excuse the leader's obligation to always maintain attention to the mid- and long-term goals, too. Effective leadership will acknowledge and address all incoming data, good or bad, whether it relates to questionable market information or bad news from field offices; effective decision-making only occurs after a thorough assessment of all available information and how that relates to the enterprise as a whole.
Effective leadership comes in many forms; often, the most effective leaders are those who've taken the time to understand their organization and who work with its assets to further its goals. Leaders who fail to provide effective leadership, in the ways listed above or in other ways, risk taking down the entire enterprise with them as they fall.
Related: Strong Project Leadership - The Antidote to Failed Projects
What makes a good project leader? Why does project leadership matter?
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