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Lead Your Team Leadership

Leadership Failures: 5 Stumbling Blocks for Bosses

Leadership Failures: 5 Stumbling Blocks for Bosses
Credit: g-stockstudio/Shutterstock

Leadership isn't about having a C-level title, a corner office or the power to make important company decisions. The best leaders know that their success or failure depends on their ability to inspire and guide their teams. Meanwhile, official corporate culture statements often highlight traits like "integrity" and "collaboration" as core values from the top down. But do today's executives truly practice what they preach?

According to a recent study by the Center for Creative Leadership, nearly 40 percent of new chief executives fail outright within their first 18 months on the job, and even more of them fail to live up to the expectations of those who hired them. Roxi Hewertson, CEO of Highland Consulting Group and AskRoxi.com, said this failure rate results from a flawed process of leadership hiring and support.

"Organizations are not set up to support their leaders well, nor [are they] clear about expectations of behaviors and actions related to that new leadership role," said Hewertson, author of "Lead Like It Matters … Because It Does" (McGraw-Hill, 2014). "Too often, the way they are held accountable is to be told they have failed. The system is fundamentally broken in too many organizations, and it takes a lot of good people down with it."

Hewertson named five major reasons that new leaders are unable to perform successfully. [Is Your Management Style Hurting Your Team?]

Over- or under-confidence. Most workers, whether they're in a leadership position or not, know what they'd like to see in a boss. They often feel confident that they could rise to the challenge and become that boss if they had to. When it comes time to act, though, this can be a little more difficult than expected.

"Knowing is the easy part — doing is the hard part," Hewertson told Business News Daily. "We all know what good and bad leadership looks like and feels like. Once in the role, however, people often forget what they know and get a bit full of themselves, or are so unsure of themselves [they become] ineffective." 

Approaching leadership with the wrong expectations. It's one thing to be a team member; it's another to lead those team members. Leaders are frequently unprepared to deal with the realities of managing a group, so they either ignore problems that arise or react poorly to them.

"Rarely do new leaders have a clue about what they are really getting into," Hewertson said. "For many of them, it's not what they expected, or had the desire or competencies to do well."

Lack of training in the right skill set. You need many different competencies to master the discipline of leadership. People must learn how to lead well, and the skills and motivations needed to lead are the opposite of those needed to be an individual contributor. It's no longer about just you: You only succeed when your people succeed, and many new leaders don't make this shift gracefully. Instead of focusing on tasks, leaders need to support the other people doing the tasks, so those people are successful.

Ignoring the need to build relationships. Leading is all about relationships — growing trust, building teams and utilizing excellent interpersonal skills. Leaders pay a high price for ignoring the important process of building healthy relationships. To create these relationships, leaders need to pay attention to their teams, keep learning and never assume anything.  

Failure to listen. Leaders tend think they have or need to act like they have all the answers — they don't have the answers, and they shouldn't act like it, Hewertson said. Listening is not a strong suit for many new leaders, and too often they jump in quickly rather than listening, learning and building on what they see.   

In her book, Hewertson described four categories of skills that leaders must master to succeed: personal (self-awareness), interpersonal (communication skills), team (harnessing group dynamics) and culture/systems (organizational assessment). Of these four "core tenets" of leadership, personal mastery is the one leaders need to focus on first and foremost in order to avoid becoming a statistic of leadership failure.

"Without first being self-aware of one's strengths and weaknesses, it's very difficult to manage one's own behaviors, or to be aware of others or to manage relationships effectively," Hewertson said. "It's essential to know your own purpose, values and vision, [and] how you are perceived by others, including what's working and what's not working for you. Then you can take that knowledge and apply it to gain and enhance the skills needed to be a highly effective leader."

Originally published on Business News Daily

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.