Think back and ask yourself how effective each of your past bosses was as a leader. If you are like most of us, you probably have experienced good and bad leaders. Only a lucky few have worked for someone that we would consider truly a great leader. The vast majority of us have worked for “good, but” leaders. A “good, but” leader is a leader that an employee describes as being a good leader, but he or she could improve in some areas. Regardless if you subscribe to leaders are born or developed explanation of leadership, almost everyone accepts that a person’s leadership skills like most capabilities vary in the level of performance.
When employees are asked to name the positive traits of someone in a position of leadership, the list is usually short in comparison to the list that the same group of employees produces to describe the negative attributes. Why is that the case? One might assume that we are drawn to the negative more than the positive since that is part of our basic human nature. Although that might be part of the explanation, I think what we might find that we can identify the negative traits more easily because they impact our daily lives more significantly. Leading psychologists argue that for each bad thing that happens to us, it takes five good things to counteract the negative effect. So, when a leader disappoints us, it has a much stronger impact on us than when a positive action is taken. In many ways, a leader works from a deficit when he or she has exhibited a negative characteristic until it can be offset by positive actions.
What are the ten things that hurt a leader’s capability to lead the most? What comes after the “good, but” for most of us? A recent survey of several thousand employees (Figure 1) found that coaching, communication, and relationship skills are the greatest shortcomings of leaders and impact between 65 and 80 percent of respondents. A lack of strategy, direction, and performance commitment form a second cluster of concerns and relates to around 50 percent of employees. Unfairness, micro management, poor delegation skills, and inadequate organizational skills make up the last grouping and impact approximately 40 percent of employees.
Over the coming months, we will look at each of the Ten Failures:
- I Don’t Need to Know More about Myself
- All I Have to Do Is Turn the Wheel
- I Can Make Everyone Happy
- Perfection is Attainable
- Only Certain Relationships Are Important
- Communication Is Threatening
- Majoring on the Minors
- I Need to Control the Environment to Ensure Success
- Change Management Is Not a Critical Skill
- I Know What I Need to Know