6 warning signs that your leadership is failing

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michelle-gibbingsIt can be easy for your leadership to falter and eventually fail if you lull yourself into a false sense of security that you have this “leadership thing” nailed!

Being a leader isn’t easy. The best leaders recognise this fact, and know they are fallible and make mistakes. They understand that there is always more to learn and better ways to do things.

This can be hard to do as we often over estimate our abilities; with over-confidence being one of the many brain based biases we have.

So what are the warnings signs that your leadership may be going off the rails? Here’s 6 warning signs to watch out for:

1. Stop being willing to change

It’s easy to get stuck in your ways and to see the traits that got you to your role as the skills and capability that will carry you forward. However, in a world that is constantly changing, success requires leaders to embrace the notion that successful organisational transformation, requires not just change for those around them, but personal change for themselves.

Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, who have studied why many crucial change efforts fail, found that one of the core problems is the gap between what is required and a leader’s own level of development.

As they say: “…it may be nearly impossible for us to bring about any important change in a system or organisation without changing ourselves (at least somewhat)…”


2. See themselves as the smartest person in the room

The downfall of many great companies can be traced to the hubris and arrogance of its leaders. Having a fixed mindset, the leaders close themselves off from feedback and feel they have nothing more to learn.

In contrast, influential leaders know they don’t have all the answers. They are constantly seeking to push the boundaries, to question, inquire and learn more.

3. Surround themselves with sycophants

While surrounding yourself with “yes” people may make life easier in the short-term, it doesn’t create long-term, sustainable business outcomes.

Seeking out the differences of opinion is critical, because it is this diversity of thought that aids ‘out of the box’ thinking. Similarly, it is often the person with the dissenting opinion or probing questions who generates the unique perspective and who can see the missing piece of the puzzle.

4. Refuse to hire people smarter than them

Everyone knows the criticality of getting the right people into the right roles. However, leaders can be uncomfortable to hire people who are smarter than them for fear it will show them up in some way.

However, influential leaders know that they can’t be ‘all things to all people.’ They look for team members to complement and enhance their leadership and capability. As Bill Gates said: “The key for us, number one, has always been hiring very smart people.”

5. Last to hear bad news

When only good news hits your desk it’s time to worry. If people hold off telling you what’s really going on it’s a sign they don’t trust how you will react to bad news.

It’s important to welcome all types of news – even news that is difficult to hear. Not only is your reaction a test of your character, it sets the standard for what happens in the future. If you shoot the messenger, next time an issue arises, you’re less likely to find people willing to alert you to it.

6. Play favourites with team members

People are acutely aware when leaders treat people differently. It’s easy to do as we can connect with some people more than others. However, if you allocate resources and rewards and recruit and promote in a way that is unfair it creates issues.

Leaders recognise that each person is unique and therefore has different needs. They work to bring out the best in each person, and do so in way which people feel valued and respected.

So, where would you place your leadership? On or off the rails?

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