Why Do Leaders Fail ?

by Dr Elaine K. Harding from

What is the #1 Reason for Ineffective Leadership?

I’ve noticed a trend in the stories I hear from my clients about their workplaces and from my own experience working in organizations.
Often the workplace story will be about a ‘crisis’ – something that has gone wrong in the workplace, such as employee dissatisfaction creating a lot of pain, or bosses who seem to be indifferent to the well being of their staff. This situation can often percolate for quite a while, until – like an infection – it comes to the surface and creates a full-blown ‘illness’.

The reason that crises erupt is because the issues underlying them are not treated appropriately by the leadership. Therefore, the one trait of leaders that can indicate whether they are successful in leading their team or not is the ability to:

Navigate and Resolve Conflict
I have seen too many leaders fall into one of three camps in terms of their conflict style:
• Aggressive – they use their command and control style too often, and it can border on authoritarianism and bullying.
• Passive/Aggressive – instead of being outwardly dominating, they pretend to be accepting and accommodating, but then will shortly take action that is aggressive towards the person (either directly or indirectly).
• Passive – outwardly accommodating, but isn’t able to ensure that actions and solutions are actually implemented, or tries to solve the problem too quickly because they dislike conflict.
Unfortunately, all of these styles are not effective for creating trust in their staff or business partners. If a leader continually uses one of the above styles, then the cultural ‘capital’ or goodwill among the team members is eroded and people begin to distrust one another and become more internally competitive.
Now, some of you might say ‘you must be strong and directive to resolve crisis’. That may be true under certain emergency circumstances. Yet, even then, people will need to be allowed to express their concern, be heard and to even contribute to the solution.

The process of resolving small conflicts before they erupt into full-blown crises is called ’empowerment’.
Empowerment is the capacity to allow the intelligence of the group to come forth to solve issues, rather than the leader having to be the primary ‘problem solver’. Unfortunately, many leaders create an identity around their ability to ‘solve problems’ and in doing so they take away their staff’s creativity and contribution to being part of a team.

What is the role of a leader in the empowerment process?
To be assertive and ask the right questions and to lead the group into a deeper process of engagement with the issue, while allowing individual differences to arise with respect. Then, to facilitate agreement on the issue, which more easily leads to an agreement of the solution.
What is your dominant style and could you improve the way in which you lead people through differences (before they become crises)?

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