Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.

–Vince Lombardi

It goes without saying that organizations fail because of poor leadership. Poor leadership  can range from toxic leaders with poor skills, to neglectful ones who fail to provide any leadership at all. Without accepting total responsibility for their work and its contribution to the community, these leaders fail to honor the commitment of their team members. In reality these leaders teach their very team members how to be poor leaders themselves.

How can you tell if your leader is guiding your organization toward disaster?

Here are 10 of the signs.

  • The Incompetent Leader.

Individual leadership matters in organizations. Like most skills, it takes certain competencies to be a successful leader. Think of the TV show, The Office, and its clueless leader, Michael Scott. He makes poor decisions and lacks interpersonal skills. Heck, he doesn’t even understand the difference between right and wrong. You get the picture now? Why are there so many incompetent leaders? There are many reasons. The short answer is that many companies do a terrible job of selecting and training leaders. Instead of focusing on values and competency, companies often promote people to leadership positions due to longevity, quality as a producer (not manager) or at times, just simply loyalty.

That was the concept behind the “Peter Principle,” i.e. the idea that in an organization, people will rise to their own level of incompetence because we reward workers for skills or seniority (assuming that the longstanding employees have learned the skills to lead) and promote them to positions where they are not capable of performing and leave them there.

  • The (Best) Folk are Jumping Ship.

High rates of turnover—particularly of those talented and experienced employees—is a key indicator of a failing organization. The causes of turnover can be legion, e.g., a toxic organizational culture, poor leadership, non-competitive compensation, and other factors. If you don’t heed the warning signs and recognize this trend, your problem will grow.

  • The (Worst) Folk are in Charge.

What do I mean by “worst folk?” This is when your organization allows abusive supervisors and bullies to go unchecked up the chain of command (think of the movie industry). Why would they do this? Often it is because either these managers have some sort of control or have the support of higher-level leadership. Leaders all too often overlook abusive and bullying behaviors in employees. They mistakenly only are viewed (rightly or wrongly) as contributing to the bottom line. Meeting departmental or organizational goals by abusing employees to get there is a sign of a deteriorating organization. The worst managers are the first to blame. Face it; we all have the inclination to blame, but they take it to extremes. It is the opposite of total responsibility and is one of the biggest steps leading to failure.

  • Constantly Putting Out Fires.

Are your leaders are always running around trying to solve problems—particularly problems that could/should have been anticipated beforehand? Spoiler Alert: That’s a sign of poor leadership. In the Full Range of Leadership Model, this is known as Passive Management-by-Exception, meaning leaders wait until there is a problem before taking action and trying to solve it. Often it is too late.

  • It’s All Too Complicated.

The best leaders and leadership systems work tirelessly to keep things simple. Do things seem endlessly complicated where you work? Is it impossible to get a decision—much less a timely one—about issues? Does your organization chart look like a bowl of multicolored spaghetti? Good leaders keep things clear and simple. It doesn’t have to easy, but it needs to be simple. When you can’t explain it, it is too complicated.

  • No Balance.

In poor leadership systems, there is no balance to be found. Everything is an extreme. All good or bad; all rules or none at all. There has to be a balance between the contrasts of goals and resources that occur daily. Without balance, there can be no progress.

  • No Teamwork.

The best organizations and leaders foster teamwork above individual reward. Yes, each member of the team must individually do their part correctly, but it is all in service of a greater goal that everyone has bought into. If you don’t know what the goal is, and why, you have a problem with your leadership.

  • No Decisions.

Good leaders know that there has to be a way to prioritize and implement decisions. The best leaders know that the important part is making the best decision in the first place. Nothing ever goes as planned; a good leader is able to look around and see that things have changed and quickly reorient, decide what to do, and then ACT! Never forget the “act” part. Without it, you have nothing.

  • No Delegation.

This one can circle back to the worst folk one, but when leaders fail to delegate. Lack of delegation limits them and their reach to only what they alone can accomplish. The best leaders are able to assess the skills of their team and delegate to team. They can assign members the tasks appropriate to their skills and manage the group to success. It is all about winning, not about allocation of credit.

  • Not Taking Total Responsibility.

The best leaders understand and live the concept of “total responsibility.” They take responsibility for every problem and every solution in their world. Above, below, to the right or left, and in front of them—they take responsibility for it all. They accept that any impediment or problem or issue that gets in the way of their goals or those of the team are issues for which they are responsible. Period. No exceptions.


Leadership concepts are not just imprecise theories, but rather are time honored, practical, and valid systems. I coach leaders to do the things they know they should be doing but often fail to actually do. They learn that when they don’t do those things, they are failing as individual leaders and failing their teams and the commitment their team brings to the table. While rooted in common sense and based on the reality of practical experience, these principles require skill and repetition to implement effectively. Leadership is simple, but it’s not easy and yet, can be applied to, and improve, the outcome of any situation to any team, system, organization, or individual.

Keep in mind that with practice, anyone can learn to apply leadership principles and improve their business. With practice, dedication, and discipline, over time, you, too, can master them and become a more effective leader.

Are you having challenges leading your work force? Do you have a grip on how to best manage the the challenges of leadership?

If you you aren’t sure what to do first, give me a call and lets talk… Schedule a time for a free call and tell me your story.


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