10 Causes of Leadership Failure“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” –Lao Tzu
We view other’s behavior in one of two ways: something worthy of emulation, or else as an example of what not to do. As a followup to my recent post on 11 Attributes of Leadership, it’s important to illustrate some notable causes of failed leadership.
This selection is excerpted from Think and Grow Rich, by Napolean Hill. Despite being published in 1938, this is a book that should be read by all who aspire towards true leadership in business and in life.
1. Emphasis of the “Authority” of Leadership. The efficient leader leads by encouraging and not by instilling fear in her followers. The leader who tries to impress her followers with “authority” comes within the category of leadership through force. If a leader is a real leader, she will have no need to advertise that fact except by her conduct – namely, her sympathy, understanding, fairness, and a demonstration that she knows her job.
2. Emphasis of Title. The competent leader requires no title to give her the respect of her followers. The person who makes too much over her title generally has little else to emphasize. The doors to the office of the real leader are open to all who wish to enter, and her working quarters are free from formality or ostentation.
3. Disloyalty. The leader who is not loyal to her trust, and to her associates, those above her and those below her, cannot long maintain leadership. Disloyalty brings down on one’s head the contempt she deserves.
4. Unwillingness to Render Humble Service. Truly great leaders are willing to perform any sort of labor which they would ask another to perform. “The greatest among you shall be the servant of all” is a truth that all able leaders observe and respect.
5. Inability the Organize Details. Efficient leadership calls for the ability to organize and to master details. No leader is ever “too busy” to do anything which may be required of her in her capacity as leader. When someone admits that she is “too busy” to change plans, or to give attention to any emergency, then she admits inefficiency. The successful leader must be the master of all details connected with her position. That means that she must acquire the habit of relegating details to capable lieutenants.
6. Expectation of Pay for What They “Know” Instead of What They Do. The world does not pay for what people know. It pays for what they DO, or induce others to do.
7. Fear of Competition from Followers. The leader who fears that one of her followers may take her position is practically sure to realize that fear sooner or later. The able leader trains understudies to whom she may delegate, at will, any of the details of her position. Only in this way may a leader multiply herself and prepare to be at many places, and give attention to many things at one.
8. Lack of Imagination. Without imagination, the leader is incapable of meeting emergencies and of creating plans to guide her followers efficiently.
9. Selfishness. The leader who claims all the honor for the work of her followers is sure to be met with resentment. The truly great leader claims none of the honors. She is contented to see the honors go to her followers because she knows that most people will work harder for commendation and recognition than for money alone.
10. Intemperance. Followers do not respect an intemperate leader. Moreover, intemperance in any of its forms destroys endurance and the vitality of those who indulge in it.
As these tips are from 75 years ago, are we making progress in developing business leadership? Or have we been so busy making so many changes that an important fundamental such as leadership has been overlooked?
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