If the war on talent is real, the war for leadership talent is even more of a reality. Shortcomings at the leadership level trickle down to every aspect of an organization, leading to a litany of negative consequences. Here are four leadership scenarios that can be disastrous for your business and how to avoid them.
1. The Wrong Leadership
You’ve read the headlines about CEOs leaving their organizations after only three months on the job. This is often the result of a leadership/company mismatch. In the case of a brief leadership relationship, the organization gets off easy, often with minor impact due to the brevity of the mismatch. What will really impact an organization is when you have the wrong individuals in leadership who remain in the organization year after year, making decisions that may be contrary to the organization’s long-term best interest and to the detriment of its employees.
How does this happen? Organizations, to their own detriment, often select leaders who look great on paper — you know, the ones who went to a certain school or worked at certain top-tier organizations. While it’s important to hire qualified leaders, what’s most important is to hire the right leaders for your organization.
What do you do? Take your time in selecting individuals who will fill leadership roles irrespective of whether they are internal or external candidates. Also, ensure that these individuals, as well as your existing leadership and/or future leaders, not only fit the organizational culture, but are also the right fit based on where your organization is now and where you are looking to take it. If they don’t measure up, cut your losses and move on.
2. Not Empowering Your Leadership
Do you hire leaders but not allow them to make any major decisions without going through you first? While this keeps you in total control and may feel good to you, all you are doing is weakening the organization and at times keeping it paralyzed. There’s truth in the old expression “jack of all trades, master of none,” and it very well applies to leaders who feel they must have their hands in everything and be the final say. No one person can do it all — and actually, if you want your organization to be successful, no one person should do it all. Successful leaders understand that you win by surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you, capable of executing on the things that matter.
What do you do? Examine your current infrastructure and ensure that you’ve created an atmosphere where your leadership team can work independently and feel responsible enough to participate in decision making. As long as you have a competent leadership team that understands the collective mission and goals, set them free to lead. Doing so will allow the organization to continue as it needs to.
3. Stagnant Leadership
One of the biggest threats to the success of any business is for its leadership to become stagnant and stuck in its ways. Things change around us every day: technology, trends, popular culture, our customers, our laws — just to name a few. Is your leadership agile? Or are they more stuck in their way of doing things and becoming static?
Innovation is the driving force of organizational success. The current way of doing things may be working now, but it’s critical to have a leadership team that is constantly seeking innovation and continuous improvement or you will find your business being forced to change just to survive, and by then it might be too late.
What do you do? Remain alert for signs of complacency. To stay adaptive, ensure your leadership team is making an effort to stay plugged-in by frequently soliciting feedback from those who have a stake in the business, including employees and clients. Then make it a point to not only solicit the feedback, but decipher what makes sense to apply and act on it.
4. Toxic Leadership
Toxic leadership (if you can even call it leadership) appears in many forms — from the narcissist who is only concerned about their own self-advancement and never seeks to develop others or solicit feedback, to the bully who is abusive and belittles people around them. Toxic workplaces cost employers in the U.S. an estimated $23.8 billion a year from expenses related to absenteeism, lost productivity and health costs, according to a report (download required) by UNC’s Keenan-Flagler Business School. In whatever form the toxicity appears, leaders who display these toxic behaviors will create a negative or even hostile working environment, destroy company culture and ultimately keep the organization from being what it needs to be.
What do you do? Be vigilant for the first hints of any signs of toxicity from your leadership team or workplace environment. If you see signs of toxic behavior, depending on the severity, you can either invest in leadership training as your first line of defense or otherwise seek to swiftly remove the toxicity from your organization by replacing those who are guilty of the toxic behaviors.
Successful organizations need effective leaders at all levels. The right kind of leadership team will maximize output and achieve business goals. The wrong type of leadership can sink a company altogether. Once you’re able to decipher between the two, it’s all on you.