It’s easy for new managers and leaders to get caught up with the trappings of leadership because they gain power, confidence and control. This can also be their undoing as an effective leader.
In recent years we’ve witnessed the public downfall of leaders from almost every area of endeavor, business, sports and even political figures. Jeff Skilling the former Enron CEO convicted of fraud. High profile sports stars banned for taking prohibited drugs. Harvey Weinstein and numerous political figures accused of sexual harassment. One day they’re on top of the heap, the next, they are on the bottom of the heap.
Most people in leadership positions tend to think that catastrophic failure will never happen to them. After all, they worked hard to get there, they deserve it and won’t give up their leadership position for anything. However, the distance between being a revered leader and becoming a miserable failure is much shorter than they think.
Consider these seven common warning signs leaders are about to fail.
1. They lose focus
The laser-like focus that catapults leaders to the top of their game disappears when they become complacent. They stop directing people forward and lose the ability to be the think big. They often become trapped by wealth, notoriety and the power that comes with leadership they forget they are there to support and guide their team.
With a lack of focus, their ability to think big diminishes. Instead of focusing on the future, they focus on the present. They begin to micro-manage and get caught up with details instead of delegating and empowering others to achieve organizational goals.
Leaders must have a clear vision for the future and communicate this vision to ensure everyone on the team is consistently delivering company goals and objectives.
2. They stop communicating
Once a leader loses focus, they also tend to stop communicating to their team. They assume people know what to do and a result assume that their followers automatically know what to do.
As a result, they tend to blame others for their own misgivings. They begin to see misunderstandings as a lack of commitment or lack of effort in their followers and fail to understand they are in fact the problem.
Being a great communicator is a pre-requisite for anyone in a leadership position. Never forget to keep communicating organizational goals and objectives.
3. They begin to fear failure
It’s much easier to reach the top of your game than stay on top of your game.
When a leader has delivered outstanding results, this creates pressure on them to consistently deliver. They begin to ask themselves, “Will I able to sustain these results?” As a result, the fear of failure creeps in and they become risk adverse. Attempts to innovate gets shut down, morale diminishes, and teams become non-productive.
When a leader shuts down innovation and creativity, this leads to good people leaving.
The longer a leader produces results and is successful, the higher their perceived cost of failing which can lead them to becoming more risk adverse.
4. They become risk adverse
Once a leader fears failure, and lack confidence, they tend to become risk adverse. They want to make decisions they feel are safe as a tactic to maintain the status quo and keep things running smoothly. As a result, good people leave because being risk adverse stifles innovation and creativity.
Leadership begins where comfort ends. To continue to be a great leader, you must get comfortable with uncomfortable. Risk is essential for growth otherwise a business will stagnate. When a leader takes their foot off the pedal, they tend to become reactive instead of proactive.
5. They become reactive instead of proactive
If you don’t drive your business, you will be driven out of business.
The worlds knowledge base doubles every two to three years. Students graduating from high school have been exposed to more information than their grandparents were introduced to in a lifetime. There will be as much change in the next three decades as there was in the last three centuries.
If a leader is constantly putting out fires, they aren’t using their time effectively nor aren’t they adapting to the constant changing business environment.
Proactive leaders influence the future and form alliances that set the strategic direction of the company.
6. They stop learning
Even the best leaders think they know everything and always make the right decisions.
It’s impossible to bring about change if a leader is not willing to embrace personal change themselves. Leaders cannot expect others to change if they are not willing to change themselves.
They become selfish and forget they are there to support and mentor their team. Often, they begin to micromanage their people and stop leading them forward. Instead of giving advice they become power hungry and seek control. They begin to ignore others and believe their own press.
7. They don’t adapt to change
When a leader won’t adapt to change, they lose momentum and fail to see the opportunities before them.
Change happens with or without your permission. You can’t always change what is happening around you, but you can change how you respond to it. Resisting change is like pushing water upstream.
Successful leaders adapt to change and respond accordingly. They use their emotional intelligence to manage stress and intentionally avoid the pitfalls of leadership failure.
On a final note
Being aware of the trappings of leadership and investing in yourself will make you a better leader.
In a Nutshell
- They lose focus and become complacent focusing on trivial things instead of driving the business forward.
- They stop communicating and expect their team to know what to do.
- They begin to fear failure which shuts down innovation and creativity.
- They become risk adverse taking the safe options.
- They become reactive instead of proactively driving the business.
- They stop learning, become selfish and stop mentoring and leading their team.
- They don’t adapt to change losing momentum and fail to see opportunities in front of them.