It has been well documented that around 50% of all leaders fail in one way or another. There are certainly a variety of reasons for these failures. When I think about all of my clients, as well as reviewing some of the literature in the area, a few themes emerge about why leaders fail at such a high percentage.
The most interesting themes are those that suggest the organization, not the leader, could have done a lot differently to help ensure success. The four themes below are areas that organizations should consider as they create and/or review their leadership selection, development, succession planning, and engagement processes. Also, it is a call to HR leaders to ensure that the top organizational leaders understand how these themes can quickly derail their mid-level leaders and hurt the organization fairly quickly.
1. Promoting a leader without knowing if they actually have leadership skills
This is the age old problem that most organizations face. When companies have to select new leaders they typically look internally at the highest performing individual contributors. There are a lot of good reasons why organizations do this and looking to your top talent is a good place to build the pool. However, there needs to be a selection procedure in place to ensure these individuals actually have the leadership abilities needed for successful job performance.
2. Not empowering your leaders to make decisions
This is a bit more subtle than theme #1, but is a huge problem nonetheless. Leaders, and maybe even more importantly, their subordinates, know when they don’t have the authority to make decisions. There are a variety of things that can go afoul because of this. However, one of the bigger issues is that the inability for leaders to make decisions will bring organizational progress to a halt.
3. Not communicating with your leaders
Somewhat related to theme #2 is the organizational communication issue. Nothing derails a strategy or initiative more than not communicating with the leaders who are tasked with executing that strategy. Many times mid-level leaders are conscientious and take initiative because they want to get projects and work accomplished. However, they need insight into the over-arching goals and business strategy in order to effectively execute the strategy.
4. Get leaders development and/or coaching help after it’s too late
All too often, organizations reach out to me asking for help to develop or coach a leader that has already derailed. Typically, the company says that they want to give the leader a chance to show their potential and prove they are truly dedicated to their development. However in many instances, it is already too late. Focusing on leader development after big problems already exist, means bad news for everyone involved.
Leader failure is too common. It’s essential that organizations do what they can to set their leaders up for success. If your company doesn’t want your leaders to succeed, then by all means, follow these steps. Realistically, if you take the opposite of the advice in this article, your leaders will have a much better chance of succeeding. Good luck!
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