I have had a few “epic” failures in my lifetime. Some were more memorable than others. Some were quiet failures. Some were fairly public failures. You have probably had some as well. So, is there anything we can learn from them?
I was told by a manager one time, “If you aren’t failing, then you aren’t trying hard enough.” And I am sure that there are many situations in which that statement is true. However, I am not dealing with effort and intentions alone today. Instead, I am dealing with results. To some, this may seem a bit harsh. Our society often expresses success in terms of how hard one tries. And if one tries really, really, really hard, then they have succeeded due to their level of effort. But for today, let’s look at leadership failure from a results-oriented perspective, OK?
There are certainly tell-tale signs when a leader is failing. And that is true even when the leader himself does not see it. Certainly, those around him don’t always see it either. And if those that do see it, they don’t always know how to address it with the leader. Fortunately, those with discernment will see it.
Signs of Leadership Failure
Are you interested in signs of current or impending failure within an organization? Consider some of these signs that there is some sort of leadership failure within an organization:
There is a leadership failure when there is a refusal to accept advice or help from other leaders within the organization who are more experienced. Sometimes we think that we must do it all ourselves and we must “gut it out.” Although advice is easy to find. Good and sound advice is a precious commodity. As a leader, we must seek it out. And we must dispense it very carefully. Especially when it is not solicited.
Ask yourself: Am I open and “coachable?”
There is a leadership failure when leaders lack the support of those around them. Failure is near when you have lost the support of those closest to you and of those who have real insight into the situation at hand.
Ask yourself: Am I in this alone because those closest to me are falling away?
There is a leadership failure when new people searching for an organization with good leadership continue to pass you by. This is a hard one to grasp. Among many things, leadership is defined by “followship.” And when there are folks in need of leadership and yet they choose a different organization, this is a sign of leadership failure and that failure is obvious to those outside of the organization.
Ask yourself: Is this organization growing like other organizations with similar challenges?
There is a leadership failure when leaders bring embarrassment or shame to the organization that they are leading. It seems that the concept of shame is a distant and bygone concept. But everyone still understands embarrassment on a personal level. So, if your organization is the brunt of jokes or is ridiculed publicly, there is leadership failure.
Ask yourself: Do others think of me and my organization as a joke?
There is a leadership failure when there are financial problems. This one is a little tricky if your organization is a church or a non-profit organization and it depends upon charity or offerings for funding. Fundraising is an unavoidable function of leadership in this setting. And financial problems are most often indicative of the lack of “buy in” by the “rank and file” in the organization. As leaders, we must be able to communicate and get buy-in.
Ask yourself: Do others trust and follow me enough to invest their hard-earned dollars in me and my organization?
There is a leadership failure when your organization continually misses opportunities that present themselves. There is a big difference between “seeing” and opportunity and actually “seizing” it. And these lost opportunities are hard to quantify. But here is why great leaders surround themselves with great teams where there is likely to be someone with the ability to spot opportunities and initiate a strategy to take advantage of that opportunity.
Ask yourself: Am I always the last to get in on the deal or adopt the new technology or methodology?
There is a leadership failure when there is desperation. Great leaders do not let the situation degenerate to the point that desperation kicks in. Great leaders are planners. They have the right plan to execute the strategy. They have prepared in advance and have capital and contingency in case the plan goes awry. They can adjust and not panic.
Ask yourself: Am I one bad decision away from desperation?
This list is not exhaustive and I have intentionally kept it short. I ended the list on the topic of desperation. You know you are in a leadership crisis when you hear words such as: “We really need this to work!” Those words are a sure sign that your leader has gotten to the point where they are out of fresh ideas and short on confidence. They are down to their last tactic and if this doesn’t work, then they don’t know what they will do next.
What Can I Do?
How are you feeling? Are you confident? Let me help you grow in confidence and increase your leadership skills.
And do not despair. I am already preparing a list of “How to Recognize Success”.