7 Habits of Unsuccessful Leaders
I have witnessed numerous highflying companies come crashing to the ground. Through these experiences, I’ve learned a fundamental truth: Businesses don’t fail. Leaders fail.
Nearly all leaders who preside over struggling businesses slip into several leadership traps on the way down. These traps can be so destructive that they can overshadow a leader’s strengths.
Below is a list of seven deadly traps that leaders cannot afford to fall into. Although these traps are most deadly when it’s the CEO who succumbs to them, other managers with these flaws can cause significant damage as well. Learning to recognize these traps is the first step toward avoiding them.
- They don’t develop people. When leaders fail to invest in the development of their people, the future growth of the business is in jeopardy. An on-going effort to coach, mentor, and develop others is necessary to build the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the people needed to run the organization as it grows. You don’t build a business. You build people and then people build the business. As companies grow and make transitions from one stage of growth to the next, they need managers with progressively higher levels of leadership and management skills. It’s the responsibility of the CEO and the leadership team to ensure that there is a pipeline of talent to grow the business.
- They think they have all the answers. In a world that is constantly changing, it’s not possible for one person to have all the answers. No leader can solve all of the problems of a business alone. A leader’s willingness to hear contradictory or conflicting information is one of the most critical differentiators between effective and ineffective teams. Leaders should surround themselves with intelligent people, who have complementary experiences, and each of those people should be in a position to impact decisions. To reduce the risk of making flawed decisions, it’s imperative to involve other people, collect additional data, insist on thorough debate, and be aware of our own shortcomings.
- They cling to the past. When confronted with a changing environment, they revert to what is familiar and comfortable. It’s hard to fathom that the very behavior that leads to success at one stage can cause you to fail at the next. But it can, and it will. That’s the great irony of entrepreneurial leadership. No matter how successful your company is today, the same methods and approaches that got you to your current level will not be enough to get you to the next one.
- They lack interpersonal skills. It’s common to see leaders that are brilliant in their functional area and have a wonderful ability to think strategically, but lack the interpersonal skills required to build productive relationships. On one hand, they might be arrogant, condescending, abrasive, or rude. On the other, they might avoid conflict, difficult conversations, or messy situations altogether. The result is poor relationships, low engagement, and lackluster performance. A leader has to be able to develop and maintain the relationships that ultimately determine the success of a business.
- They allow loyalty to become a liability. One of the toughest issues facing a fast-growth business is that some people, even those who are committed to your business and work hard, won’t have the skills and experience to grow with the business. Some people can adjust to the changes brought about by growth. Many cannot. Too many leaders, however, are slow to take action when it comes to under-performing team members, particularly when it comes to long-time, loyal employees.
- They “Band-Aid” problems. Rapidly growing businesses are moving so fast that they get caught up “fixing” (but not resolving) the day-to-day symptoms of a recurring problem. Managing with a quick fix avoids the subjective conversations and difficult decisions that can easily become messy, emotional, and awkward. But “Band-Aiding” problems does not fix the underlying cause of the problem; it simply provides temporary relief, and eventually the same problems resurface – again and again. Rip the Band-Aids off and deal with the issues. Problems don’t go away unless the source of the problem is uncovered and resolved.
- They fail to articulate a compelling vision. Leaders often fail to effectively communicate their vision to the organization. In particular, they don’t communicate it in a way that helps their people know where to focus their own efforts. Focusing people on the top priorities is the best way to immediately and tangibly impact your organization. Set the overall vision, direction, and strategy of the company and communicate them with clarity to all stakeholders. This guides everyone inside and outside of your organization by explaining who you are, where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there.
Most of the time, leaders who have these habits are not aware of their presence and the effect they have on their business. Every leader should be aware of these leadership traps. The success of your business depends on it.
Have you slipped into any of these traps?