Leadership failure is an important concept for all staff functions to understand, but especially, in my judgement, HR and communication. Recognizing the patterns of failure is a key ingredient of being a trusted strategic adviser. It’s what makes us more valuable, and also pretty nervous from time to time.
Every year, publications like Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek and the Harvard Business Review publish the current list of reasons why bosses lose their jobs. What is remarkable is how similar these lists are from year to year and over the decades.
Here is a brief review of the general top five every year, and then I’ll get more specific on the precise behavior to look for as indicators that leadership may be heading down a bad path.
Reason # 1: Poor performance. Simply stated, the person holding the top job failed to perform as promised or expected. It’s a pretty sensible criteria and one whose outcomes are easily noticeable.
Reason # 2: Over optimism. I’ve been in Public Relations for 40 years, and at best, the best promoters of what they’re doing turn out to be the people who run the organizations themselves. It seems that no matter how much trouble an organization may be in, the boss can somehow make the silk purse out of the sow’s ear. Sooner or later somebody notices, an investor, another leader, a customer or employee, and when someone introduces the requisite amount of pragmatism, it often costs the chief executive their position.
Reason # 3: People trouble. Personnel issues are the toughest to manage and leaders generally,...
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