Why is the failure rate for new leaders so high? In a recent study by the Center for Creative Leadership showed that nearly 40% of new CEOs fail within 18 months of taking the job. Each of these individuals likely demonstrated substantial past success, were intelligent, and exuded strong leadership skills. So why did these leaders fail to deliver?
In a recent Institute for Management Studies program, best-selling author Dr. Clinton Longenecker provided some answers he gleaned from interviewing over 300 business leaders, each with over 25 years’ work experience in major organizations. Dr. Longenecker is the best-selling author of Getting Results: Five Absolutes for High Performance and The Two-Minute Drill: Lessons for Rapid Organizational Improvement from America’s Greatest Game. The question that he asked was, “Based on your experience, why do business leaders fail to deliver desired results?” His study identified ten factors that caused leadership failure. The top three were the following:
POOR COMMUNICATION TALENTS / PRACTICES
Ineffective communication was the number one reason why leaders fail to deliver. In times of rapid change, leaders should be overcommunicating with their divisions, departments, and individuals. Are you actively listening to the needs of your employees and then acting on that information?
The inability to connect with others due to personality or ego issues result in the second most common leadership failure. Leaders need social intelligence, which entails self-monitoring, showing empathy, and social awareness. Are you taking the time to nurture strong working relationships that breed trust and loyalty?
Failing to Clarify Direction and Performance
Leaders who are rudderless and provide no direction do not instill their employees’ confidence and commitment. A critical skill demonstrated by all successful leaders is a clear sense of direction and purpose. This is especially the case in environments with high levels of uncertainty. Are you specifying what clarion results are needed, and most importantly, why?
The higher you rise in any organization, the greater the exposure to temptation (and the greater the fall). Every leader faces ethical and moral temptations based on their position. However, senior leaders face more frequent ethical temptations based on their title or rank. IMS educator, Dr. Clint Longenecker, in a study of 271 senior leaders, identified the ten most common ones associated with this group of leaders. The top three are the following.
Falsifying, massaging or manipulating information or data
Many senior leaders encounter the frequent temptation of being dishonest or manipulative when presenting information and data, which could be caused by exhaustion, time constraints, protecting others, or self-serving motives.
Misuse of company funds, resources, or personnel
These leaders are responsible for significant resources, including monetary ones. Employing these resources for personal advantage must always be addressed and avoided.
Inappropriate sexual relationships
These tend to happen when leaders have extended separation from their loved ones and have feelings of isolation and loneliness, possibly due to their long work hours or their hubris.
Leaders should strive to develop and maintain real accountable relationships to avoid these temptations. Ask yourself the question, “Who is holding you accountable for effective and ethical leader behavior?” Also, create situational awareness around potential ethical temptations that you are prone to. Not only do you need to know your weak areas, but you should also have a plan of attack when confronted with them. Remember, it is easier to avoid a temptation than to resist it.
ABOUT CHARLES GOOD
Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.