By William Montgomery, CEO of TEN

Poor leadership in good times can be hidden, but poor leadership in bad times is a recipe for disaster. To find out why leaders fail, Harvard Business School scrutinised results from two studies:

In the first, they collected 360 -degree feedback data on more than 450 Fortune 500 executives and then teased out the common characteristics of the 31 who were fired over the next three years. In the second, they analysed 360-degree feedback data from more than 11,000 leaders and identified the 10% who were considered least effective.

They then compared the ineffective leaders with the fired leaders to come up with the 10 most common leadership shortcomings. Every bad leader had at least one, and most had several.

These sound like obvious flaws that any leader would try to fix. But the ineffective leaders they studied were often unaware that they exhibited these behaviors. In fact, those who were rated most negatively rated themselves substantially more positively.

Leaders should take a very hard look at themselves and ask for candid feedback on performance in these specific areas. Their jobs may depend on it.

1. Lack energy and enthusiasm. They see new initiatives as a burden, rarely volunteer, and fear being overwhelmed. One such leader was described as having the ability to “suck all the energy out of any room.”

2. Accept their own mediocre performance. They overstate the difficulty of reaching targets so that they look good when they achieve them. They live by the mantra “under promise and over deliver.”

3. Lack clear vision and direction. They believe their only job is to execute. Like a hiker who sticks close to the trail, they’re fine until they come to a fork.

4. Have poor judgment. They make decisions that colleagues and subordinates consider to be not in the organization’s best interests.

5. Don’t collaborate. They avoid peers, act independently, and view other leaders as competitors. As a result, they are set adrift by the very people whose insights and support they need.

6. Don’t walk the talk. They set standards of behavior or expectations of performance and then violate them. They’re perceived as lacking integrity.

7. Resist new ideas. They reject suggestions from subordinates and peers. Good ideas aren’t implemented, and the organization gets stuck.

8. Don’t learn from mistakes. They may make no more mistakes than their peers, but they fail to use setbacks as opportunities for improvement, hiding their errors and brooding about them instead.

9. Lack interpersonal skills. They make sins of both commission (they’re abrasive and bullying) and omission (they’re aloof, unavailable, and reluctant to praise).

10. Fail to develop others. They focus on themselves to the exclusion of developing subordinates, causing individuals and teams to disengage.

William Montgomery

Through his workshops, William Montgomery has helped hundreds of organisations and schools plus thousands of people to achieve their potential. To discuss your continuous improvement requirements, please call 0117 325 2010 or send a message to mail@askten.co.uk.