5 Leadership Failures

July 13, 2013

Here are five key leadership failures:

1.  Failure to take the blame and give the credit

“Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”  Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Carnegie had it right way back in 1937. It was true then, and it is true today. Funny thing about truths, they don’t change like the weather. Leaders ought to pass credit back to the team, and, as importantly, leaders should themselves shoulder the responsibility for failure. Charlie Pellerin in How NASA Builds Teams talks about his experience with and responsibility for one of the greatest technical failures of a team:  the deployment of the Hubble Telescope. Charlie was the head of the division that developed a telescope with a flawed mirror. But he didn’t spend time looking for somebody to blame. He assembled a team to develop the fix–and gave them credit for doing so. Hubble eventually became a significant piece of equipment for exploring the universe.

2.  Failure to develop the leadership capacity of your team

“Until we as an organization–and the sector as a whole–become much more intentional about development of internal talent, we are doomed to an ever-growing leadership deficit” Neil Nicoll, President and CEO, YMCA

Managers manage a process. Leaders develop leaders. If developing leaders is the #1 job of leaders then why do we spend so little time and so little resources on this vital responsibility? Take a look at your calender for the last month. How much time was spent managing processes? How much time have you spent in truly developing the leadership capacity, emotional intelligence, culture, and values of your team?

3.  Failure to learn from your failures (and take calculated risks)

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”  Theodore Roosevelt

What more can one add to the great words of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt?

4.  Failure to make a decision

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Okay, this time I need to say a little more about making a decision. I did a blog post on this topic a while back called You Can’t Steer a Parked Car. Moving at least provides you with some momentum in some direction, even if it’s the wrong direction. If you are moving you can “steer” yourself and your team in the right direction.

5.  Failure to be accountable to your values

“To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects.”  Margaret Thatcher

Values are your compass and that of the organization. The more fully aligned you are with the values of the organization, the more fully that you will realize your gifts. Oftentimes, being driven by consensus of the group leads you into the trap that Thatcher describes. Establish the values and let those values drive the process–regardless of where consensus wants to take you.


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