Why do leaders fail? Leading is hard. In today’s volatile world, the pressure to perform and execute has never been greater. Some days, things go right, and on other days, it feels like the organization is crumbling. Imposter syndrome sets in, causing leaders to question, “Do even I have what it takes to lead?”
For me, leadership is a little bit of science, but mostly art. The list of attributes leaders need to possess is long yet uniquely individual. Vision, communication style, empathy, self-awareness, and listening ability blend with experiences, personality style, and ego. These combinations make each leader’s journey an individual one. And for every successful leader, dozens have failed.
Being in an executive position for fifteen years now, I have avoided catastrophic failure, but I have witnessed quite a bit of it. I hired executives I believed would succeed, helping me take the company to the next level, only to watch them struggle, deny, blame, and then flame out. Over the years, I have come to my own conclusions on why leaders fail and what we can do about it.
In this week’s episode, I share five reasons why I believe leaders fail.
They Lack Self-Leadership Qualities
A primary reason why leaders fail is that they are poor self-leaders. They lack the self-awareness, motivation, empathy, and accountability to succeed at the executive level. Or they overwork themselves, not taking time to care for themselves properly, so they show up grumpy, lackluster, and uninspired.
Confidence Turns to Arrogance
When leaders are promoted or hired, they often want to prove themselves. And the pressure is real; leaders must produce results. Unfortunately, many respond to this pressure by making unilateral decisions, failing to ask questions, and underestimating their impact on the organization. They forget that they are there to serve others. “I was hired for a reason, and I am going to show everyone they made the right decision,” they think.
They Can’t Build a Team
One of the essential tasks a leader must do is to build a strong team. Without a high-performing team, a leader will struggle, and the company will struggle. I often say that if you can’t build a team, you can’t be a successful leader. Many leaders say they don’t have time for these activities, but in my opinion, these efforts are the most important part of their jobs.
They Disregard the Details
Leaders are supposed to work on the business, not in the business, right? While this is somewhat true, executing strategy is key to running a successful business, and if a leader stops caring about the details, things can fall apart.
They Fail to Communicate Well
Leaders cannot over-communicate. Why? People want to hear from their leaders, even if the truth is hard to hear. Leaders fail when they aren’t transparent and when they don’t share the why. Leaders who fail to articulate the vision, set direction, and repeatedly share the message will lose followership.
There is no doubt that leadership is a journey and a unique one at that. Leaders must develop their skills through experience, coaching, and mentoring. They get better by being self-aware, honing their communication styles, balancing working on the business, paying attention to details, and showing humility.
Question of the Week
This week’s question comes from an aspiring leader who asked me, “what can I do to become a better leader?” My answer: hire a coach! Listen to the full episode to hear more.
To read more on why leaders fail, check out my article on Entrepreneur.
Be sure to check out my new In the Media page where you can have easy access to articles, podcasts and videos that I’ve created of been featured in!