Five fatal flaws for a leader
Want to know what causes leaders to crash and burn? The list can be a long one, but over the years, I’ve seen some patterns emerge. I’ve had some fun exaggerating these traits, but see if there is a grain of truth that resonates with you.
- The Smartest Person in the Room
He’s the guy who got straight A’s in Engineering school, without studying. He’s brilliant. He can see the solution in a nanosecond. He soars to the top of the Engineering Department and that’s when you can hear the squeal of the brakes. Why? His brilliance has become his barrier.
He hasn’t learned to break complex subjects down, so non-engineers (a.k.a. executives) can follow his train of thought. He doesn’t collaborate and listen to his peers, and so he can’t build a coalition around his great ideas. He is so convinced he is right and has the answers, he hasn’t learned how to get his employees engaged by listening to their ideas and empowering them to solve problems. He is creating political noise for himself—people don’t want to work for him, executives are rankled by his arrogance and peers don’t want to collaborate with him.
She has climbed to the top the hard way—knowing her job inside and out. She has run through fire to deliver results and takes her reputation for being credible and reliable seriously...to a fault.
She needs to have her hands all over her employees’ work. Rather than scoping out the desired results and then letting them run, she wants detailed reports. Their plans come back with red ink--or worse-- redone by her, to her satisfaction. Because she did their jobs once upon a time, she thinks she knows best, even though the field has changed. When pressed to release her death grip, she replies, “But I’m accountable for everything that comes out of this department.”
“It’s not what you know but who you know,” is his code to live by. He golfs with the boss at the country club and pops his head in regularly to chat with the Chief. He has a contact list longer than the tax code. He wants his name on the leader roster of all the community organizations, but he doesn’t show up when there’s real work to be done. He’s running for office but hasn’t declared which one.
His employees are on their own. He’s hard to locate. He’s rarely on time. He drops names to explain. Unfortunately for those working under him, he sees it as his responsibility to do all the presentations to senior management. And if you have a complaint or concern, don’t you dare breathe a word of it…people might realize the Emperor has no clothes.
He’s so nice, even his Mother-in-Law loves him. He’d give you the shirt off his back. He does everything he is told, so senior management is happy with him…to a point. He doesn’t push back and shies away from conflict. If he disagrees, he waits for others to speak up.
Some employees have learned to take advantage of his pliable personality. If they stop in and lobby him, they know they will get what they want. All they have to do is present a compelling case and he will have a hard time disagreeing. Unfortunately, some of his employees don’t like the side deals he cuts. He can’t understand why his team just can’t get along like one happy family.
He likes being the boss. He thinks a little healthy intimidation is a good thing, and so he takes aim at people in meetings, just so they know he means business. Like the gym teacher, who used to slam bad boys into lockers, you don’t want to cross him. His employees learn to keep their mouths shut and heads down.
He likes to pit people against one another, because he thinks that motivates them to do their best. This alpha male only respects bigger, badder leaders with more power, or peers who will go toe-to-toe with him. If he smells weakness, beware.
Ok, so these leader traits are a bit over the top. But did you see a glimpse of anyone you know?
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Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist.
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