Leadership Failure is an Inside Job

John Maxwell framed this title in this article. http://johnmaxwellonleadership.com/2010/10/10/failure-is-an-inside-job/

After reading it – I just couldn’t get past the idea that most leadership or personal failures start from within. We must be mindful of protecting our mental thoughts and decisions by seeking the wisdom of other leaders we respect. We must realize that we must learn to find ways to to bring accountability to everything we do. This honest advice is important to keep our feet well grounded and it will provide the fertile ground for healthy growth.

I have talked a lot about becoming a successful leader in this blog. It is now important to talk about the real threats we all face that can contribute to leadership failure. In most cases, they are created by the choices we  make without accountability. After reading this two articles below  – you see that character or integrity are mentioned most when addressing potential failures. Failure to address early warning signs is often the key to failure and loss of leadership creditability. Enjoy…

Here are some excellent articles or books on the topic:

Source: http://www.catalystspace.com/content/read/5_lessons_from_leadership_failures_irwin/

5 Lessons from Leadership Failures

By Tim Irwin | Author, Derailed

“Leadership is a stewardship and you’re accountable” – Andy Stanley

Former Home Depot CEO, Bob Nardelli, created a nine car personal parking area underneath the Home Depot corporate office in Atlanta—space for just a few from his collection of classic cars. A private elevator rose from his parking area straight to his personal office on the top floor of the building without stopping on any other floors. This elevator became a gleaming symbol of Nardelli’s arrogance and dismissiveness of others, which ultimately led to his downfall. Sadly, Nardelli’s story is not unique. We see them every day. Headline after headline of extremely talented, highly competent leaders experiencing catastrophic failures in leadership.

derailedWe might understandably ask, “What does this have to do with me? I have one old car and take the stairs to my office.” In reality, the main difference between Nardelli and us is that when we fail, our story is unlikely to be a streaming banner on Fox News. We are also likely to get less than his two hundred million dollar severance package if we get fired!

In my new book, Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership, I share the stories of six high profile leaders who failed and distil what we can learn about how to be better leaders. These insights are drawn from over twenty years of studying top leaders who succeeded as well as those who failed at their jobs.

Derailed is ultimately not about six high profile CEOs—its’ about us. Whether church head, ministry director, committee chairperson, or corporate leader, the lessons of why these leaders cataclysmically failed apply to all of us. We possess the very same potential to derail in our own jobs.

What are the five big lessons we can learn from studying those who derailed?

  1. Character Trumps Competence – While being good at what we do is essential, more people fail because of some issue related to character. Many of those I studied were ultimately fired not because of a lack of competence but rather a failure of character. I don’t mean character in the sense of being dishonest and defrauding the organization. Rather, the absence of one or more of four dimensions of character is clearly tied to derailment: authenticity, self-management, humility, and courage. The full expression of the dark side of these qualities nearly always dooms us.
  2. Arrogance is the Mother of All Derailers – Arrogance takes many forms. The most rudimentary is the self-centered focus that fosters a belief that I am central to the viability of the organization, the church, the ministry, the department or the team. A dismissiveness of others’ contributions is inevitable.
  3. Lack of Self/Other Awareness is a Common Denominator of All Derailments – A failure of self-management and the imperceptive, ill-conceived, impulsive or volatile actions that follow are certain derailers. Leaders who eschew corrective feedback become “truth-starved.”
  4. We Are Always Who We Are…Especially Under Stress – Stress brings out what’s inside us. If you don’t think you have a dark side to your character, then you probably haven’t been under enough stress! Wise leaders manage their stress levels and mitigate its pernicious impact on our behavior.
  5. Derailment is Not Inevitable, but without Attention to Development, it is Probable – Derailment is a process that proceeds in predictable stages. Ignoring the early warning signs puts us in great peril.

Effective leaders must set direction, gain alignment among diverse constituencies, risk change, build high-performing teams, achieve results, go the extra mile and endure ungodly stress. However, to be enthusiastically followed, leaders must also be guided by an inner compass that fosters trust on the part of their followers. That compass is character. When character is seriously compromised, derailment often follows.

Tim Irwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and leading authority on leadership development, organizational effectiveness, and executive selection. For more than twenty years, he has consulted with many of America’s most well-respected organizations and top Fortune 100 companies. Visit www.DerailedLeader.com to learn more about Tim, his new book Derailed, and to take a free personal risk assessment online.

Can You Predict Leadership Failures?

Source: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/08/can_you_predict_leadership_fai.html

Every once in a while, executives who should know better do stupid things. They seem to have it all, but they act like they want to lose it all. Which begs the question: Where in the psychology of the individual does corruption reside? What goes on in the mind of the unethical executive?

Lately, I’ve been asked this a lot. As a management psychologist, one of the things I do is assess businesspeople for senior positions, observing their personality quirks, probing the root causes of their behaviors, and offering my perspective on their fit for a leadership role. I can tell you that there are plenty of reasons why people go astray, some of which are more easily detected early on than others.

Here’s what to look for in potential executive candidates:

  1. Lack of integrity. There are some people whose moral compass is simply misdirected. They learned the wrong lessons early in life or have tainted views on how to get ahead. They have loose lips and play politics. This, I’m afraid, is difficult to assess ahead of a hire. It’s very easy for candidates to say the “right” things during an interview, and then do something altogether different once they’re given authority. You’d need multiple data points over long periods of time to predict a lack of integrity with any validity. Even information from references may be insufficient. Instead, you should ask the executive about the lessons his family taught him when he was young. Inquire about times when he had to do something he didn’t want to in order to get ahead. Discuss difficult political situations he confronted and how he handled them. Listen carefully for mere inklings of integrity lapse. If you have any question marks at all, trust your gut and pass on the candidate.
  2. Lack of maturity. Some executives have poor judgment simply because they’re immature; they lack the foresight and judgment to see the outcome of their behavior. They have difficulty controlling their impulses, particularly around sex, money, and power. Again, this is somewhat difficult to assess before hire. Being driven by money and power (let’s leave sex alone for the moment) are in some ways necessary to reaching the C-suite. The key is whether these attributes guide or overwhelm the executive’s decisions. Ask the candidate about situations in which she needed to control her emotions: Did she fly off the handle, or did she remain calm? If it was the latter, how did she resolve the situation? Can she delay short-term gains in favor of long-term success? Ask the candidate about big decisions she’s made in her past, and how she has rewarded others. Does she manage quarter-by-quarter, or does she take a longer-term view of performance?
  3. Lack of fallibility. Perfectionism is the most under-recognized trait that reliably predicts malfeasance. Take Martha Stewart.The actual behavior that brought her down as CEO was not insider trading. Instead, she was charged with lying to federal prosecutors and obstructing justice. The act suggests that she was afraid of revealing her imperfections. After all, it’s better to lie than to show any flaws, right? (That’s not a good thing.) Similarly, Mark Hurd, whose attention to detail was also well known and regarded, was ousted for altering expense reports, not because of allegations of sexual impropriety. This is why the HP board rightly questioned his judgment: It’s all about the appearance of infallibility.

In board rooms around the world, directors are quietly asking themselves what they would do in a similar situation. I say, do your due diligence on executive candidates. Go beyond reference checks and gut feel. Focus interviews on revealing the person’s true character. And avoid the wrath of the unethical executive.

Richard Davis is a management psychologist and partner at RHR International LLP. He is author of The Intangibles of Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

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