Leadership failure can be tied to a number of issues and/or behaviors. But, I think it can be best summed up by identifying four separate and distinct characteristics that can be the precursor to leadership failure. If the leader lacks one or all of the following traits it can and most likely will lead to their demise.
The leader lacks the moral and/or ethical courage to do the “right thing” will eventually fail as a leader. This can include their failure to deal with a problem employee, confront behavior which could be sexist or racial in nature, or blow the whistle on illegal or unethical practices. It requires courage to lead and there are times the leader must reach deep down inside themselves to a place that they did not know existed, to find the courage to do what’s right. Leadership is not an observers sport, it requires the leader to be involved and make the difficult calls he or she needs to make (and is paid to make) to get the job done.
The leader must be competent as a leader and they must possess a fundamental understanding of their profession. The leader does not need to be an expert in their field however they need to know how to lead people who are the experts. Leadership is an art not a science. And, like all artists the longer you study art and practice your craft the better you will become.
A leader who lacks compassion is an empty vessel and may be emotionally bankrupt. They can neither feel for, nor understand, the difficult times an employee may be going through. Furthermore many simply don’t care. Employees will abandon this leader at their first opportunity. Leaders often struggle with the need to be compassionate and still get the work accomplished. This is a difficult balancing act which must be mastered by the leader if they are to be effective.
Commitment does not begin at 8:00 A.M. and end at 5:00 P.M., it’s 24/7 and it entails doing your job as a leader, taking care of your employees, and surpassing the goals and objectives of company you work for. Careers are not built on an 8 to 5 schedule. I would go as far to say that nothing spectacular happens between 8 and 5. Spectacular accomplishments are conceived long after everyone else goes home and they are brought to life during regular scheduled work hours.
Of the four traits, which is the most important? They are all important and critical to the success of any leader. I don’t believe you can be lacking in any one of these traits and still succeed as a leader.
* This is an excerpt from The Leader As A Linking Pin To Management, a Mastering Leadership Skills seminar.