How often have you seen people thrust into leadership roles and fall flat on their face? Sometimes you knew or maybe even hoped they would fail because in your mind they did not have what it takes to be a leader. Other times the person was simply not ready to take on leadership responsibility.
Leadership failure does not just hurt the individual; the whole organization suffers when a leader fails.
Regardless of the situation, a high percentage of new leaders, or people taking on new leadership responsibilities, do fail.
I believe the primary reason for the high failure rate is because
many people simply don’t understand leadership. As a result, management
fails in their responsibility to prepare and support leaders in their
If they understood leadership they would:
• Ensure that new leaders understood what is expected of them
• Invest time in matching the skills of the individual with their role
• Prepare their people for leadership responsibilities through training, and
• Provide the opportunities to test their leadership skills prior to stepping into a leader’s shoes.
When management makes a decision to promote someone into a leadership
position they are frequently under pressure to fill a crucial role. The
pressure is created as the result of a vacancy in a leadership position
or new projects/initiatives creating a need for new leaders.
Forward thinking management teams have been preparing people for
leadership roles and have several options when they find themselves
needing a new leader.
Management teams who do not understand leadership are caught flat
footed. They end up taking a knee-jerk reaction, promoting people into
leadership roles based on the wrong criteria.
Criteria that are used most frequently include experience in current position and technical ability.
Given the need for leaders to be credible there is some logic to
these decisions; but they fail to consider the leadership skills which
are critical for success.
Critical skills include the ability to: 1) instill confidence, 2)
inspire a shared vision 3) build relationships 4) make tough decisions
5) get things done through other people.
Not all leaders will be required to build and promote a vision for
their team, but they may have to create alignment around a vision or
champion the execution of tasks to achieve a vision.
Regardless of the role facing the leader, the challenge will be to
achieve goals through other people. The people that need to be
influenced include subordinates, executives, outsiders and peers. Many
of these new leaders have always been able to achieve results in
isolation and therefore find it difficult to motivate other people to
Management teams fail to recognize leadership is not a one size fits
all proposition. Different leadership styles and skills are needed in
different situations. Ignoring this fact can result in good people being
put into the wrong roles.
The really sad thing is that developing an effective leadership
program is not rocket science, and companies don’t need to send their
people to a six week course at The University of Notre Dame to teach
There are multiple assessment tools, programs and coaches available
that can help jump start leadership development programs without
breaking the bank or consuming an inordinate amount of time.