Leadership Failure

An expert in the field of industrial and organizational psychology, Dean Stanley B. Silverman of the University of Akron presented to a small group of area leaders his latest research on why leaders fail.  Below is Silverman’s “Top 10” for leadership failure (with help from his research team).

Poor working relationships: Leaders that have an inability to communicate or ones that come across insensitive, manipulative, and untrustworthy.

Inability to develop or adapt: Inflexible leadership that don’t learn from feedback, having little ability to adjust to a new culture.

Authoritarian: Dictators that rule by fear.

Career lust: Leaders that put their careers above anything else and will stop at nothing to get to the top as they put other people down in the organization, while giving themselves all the credit.

Withholding information that should be shared: Leaders who try to make themselves look more connected than others, withholding information unless the right question is asked.

Letting stars become monsters: Reinforce and reward your stars, but give them immediate feedback when they become arrogant, ensuring they don’t see themselves as irreplaceable.

Talking the talk but not walking the walk: Leaders who embrace rhetoric but avoid courageous action and “getting dirty.”

Misguided norms about what constitutes good leadership: Organizations who confuse good leaders with high positions, as good leadership is found throughout the ranks of your corporation.  Another issue is assuming a “tough boss” is a good leader, however little evidence shows this style providing business success.

Individuals holding onto overly optimistic and objectively indefensible views of their own performance: The fact remains that most feedback mechanisms provide inaccurate criticisms for leaders as many organizations don’t have a culture of candid feedback.  Many times leaders only hear what they want to hear and not what they need to hear.

*Arrogance: This biggest reason why leaders fail is a stable attitude of superiority and an exaggerated sense of self-importance that hurts performance because it creates an illusion of invincibility.  Arrogance communicates one’s superiority, and in the course of doing so, they discount feedback from others.

The more an individual is arrogant, the more others believe they:

  • Don’t deserve to get ahead at work
  • Are less competent at work
  • Should fail
  • Don’t want to work with the individual
  • Don’t respect the individual

So as your arrogance grows keep in mind:

  • The higher the arrogance the lower the job performance
  • The higher the arrogance the lower the cognitive ability
  • The higher the arrogance the lower the self-esteem

Some additional conclusions about arrogance:

  • Are arrogant employees actually superior? No
  • Arrogant behaviors may be performed as a façade to mask incompetence or unfavorable self-appraisals
  • Arrogant employees find it difficult to accept criticism and often rely on sycophantic advisors (to tell them what they want to hear).
  • Arrogant leaders may be overly optimistic concerning the possibility of success –often belittling competition allowing them to become complacent
  • Given that employees often do not leave organizations, they leave managers –organizations need to find ways to soften the blow of arrogant leaders and work on their development!

Curious about your arrogance quota?  Here are some questions to consider:

To what degree does this individual…

  • shoot down other people’s ideas in public?
  • put personal agenda ahead of organizational objectives?
  • willing to take credit for success but not blame for failure?
  • does not welcome constructive feedback?
  • gets angry when his/her ideas are criticized?
  • not willing to listen to others’ opinions, ideas or perspectives?
  • not take  responsibility for his/her own mistakes?
  • not give others credit for their ideas?

~ by Dave Smith on September 13, 2009.

3 Responses to “Leadership Failure”

  1. This is a great post, Dave. Thanks for summarizing this info so well.

  2. My pleasure! Glad it is useful.

  3. […] I have posted on his research before, the slides to his presentation can be found HERE, giving greater detail to his […]

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