Leadership failure happens at times to everyone. From General Custer’s Battle of Little Bighorn to Abraham Lincoln’s less-than-impressive military career to Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax, even very high-profile, famous leaders suffered from some fairly major failure at some point in their careers.
Failure in leadership can actually happen a lot easier than we think – even to those we see as the most successful! Why does it happen, and what can strategies can we continue to learn from some of these famous examples of leadership failure?
- Refine your focus. As leaders we should be focused on the Big Picture, not the minute details. When leaders lose that focus and shift to being the doers rather than the drivers of the idea(s), they can get caught up in micro-managing. This may cause them to lose their focus for the vision, as well as the support they’ll need from their team to make the vision a success.
- Improve in communication. All too often, when leaders fail it’s because they suffer from poor communication. Followers can’t implement a vision it if they don’t understand what it is! Team members need a clear, precise definition of the vision in order to buy into it and follow through on it.
- Assume appropriate risk. Beware being driven by fear of failing, rather than the longing to succeed. This can be crippling to leaders who cannot get out of their own way because they are so afraid of failing. Ironically, it is almost a sure-fire way to fail! Focus on outcome: it seems to be the most fruitful direction, and the one that successful leaders focus on.
- Maintain ethical standards. The highest principle of leadership is integrity. When ethics are no longer a top priority with a leader, he or she is more likely to lose credibility and trust within a team and with the client. Credibility is a balance between what a leader does (competency) and who a leader is (character). Make sure to develop both.
- Keep the fires burning. Leaders are known for taking care of the team, and for ensuring the team continues forward in a healthy, positive manner. At the same time, leaders must be mindful of themselves and manage fatigue, stress, etc. to ensure that they too are healthy and positive.When leadership become a burden and not a fun and exhilarating role, the leader should analyze if there is something that can be done to mitigate the stress, if not move on. Eventually, the leader’s lost love for leadership bleeds down to the team as well.
Want to avoid leadership failure? Be self-aware! Pay attention to these signs and act to correct your situation and continue to lead successfully.
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