Leadership – What Are You Afraid Of?

Leadership Excellence Trust

FEARThis may seem like a strange statement to some people; but it really is not strange at all to some of those in leadership positions and others who are candidates to fill a leadership position.  Many people fear leadership.

You might be thinking that I am going to tell you how ‘leaders’ fear making mistakes or perhaps they fear the accountability of being a leader.  There is no doubt that many leaders do have these fears; but I want to talk about those ‘leaders’ who actually fear leadership in the teams they lead.

First of all, this is not true of all leaders.  Those who are true leaders realize it is their responsibility to develop the leadership skills of the people in their organizations.  Exceptional leaders focus a lot of time helping the members of their team develop leadership skills.  Weak leaders go out of their way to suppress the leadership aspirations of the people they lead.  They do what they can to keep their people from developing leadership skills because they fear that those people may prove to be more effective leaders than they are.  They fear that if they invest in leadership development one or more of those on the team might ultimately replace them.  More often than not, these so-called leaders experience these fears because they never received leadership training, or they worked for weak or ineffective leaders and found themselves thrust into a leadership role only because they were the next person in line.  A surprisingly high percentage of those promoted into leadership roles have had no leadership training or coaching.  They work for organizations that believe the myths about leaders being born.  In that regard, they find they have to take on leadership responsibilities with only a vague idea of what is expected of them.  When this happens, the new leaders experience the fear of being held accountable or of not meeting expectations.

There are many people who fear taking on leadership responsibility because they have not had leadership training or coaching.  They have a fundamental fear of what they do not understand.  Perhaps they have watched leaders in the organization fail and fear that they will also fail.  More than likely the leaders who failed did so because no one ever took time to teach them how to lead.



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It is true that many people who ultimately move into leadership positions have natural abilities which help them be effective leaders.  Others become good leaders because they learn from the behaviors of exceptional leaders.  But in the same way that professional athletes become the best in their sport through hard work and training, the best leaders become exceptional because of the training they receive, not simply the characteristics they are born with.

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Very few organizations are fortunate enough to have a barn full of “natural” leaders waiting to be promoted.  As a result, they are forced to thrust people without natural gifts into leadership positions.  More often than not these are field promotions because a previous leader was lost unexpectedly, or a need is created due to unexpected circumstances.
Given this, it seems odd to me that organizations refuse to invest even a little bit of time helping their people prepare for the leadership roles they may ultimately be forced into. And told to sink or swim.

To be continued…

Number One Reason Why Leaders Fail

Leadership Excellence

Fail Forward

How often have you seen people thrust into leadership roles and fall flat on their face? Sometimes you knew or maybe even hoped they would fail because in your mind they did not have what it takes to be a leader. Other times the person was simply not ready to take on leadership responsibility.

Leadership failure does not just hurt the individual; the whole organization suffers when a leader fails.

Regardless of the situation, a high percentage of new leaders, or people taking on new leadership responsibilities, do fail.

I believe the primary reason for the high failure rate is because many people simply don’t understand leadership. As a result, management fails in their responsibility to prepare and support leaders in their roles.

If they understood leadership they would:

• Ensure that new leaders understood what is expected of them

• Invest time in matching the skills of the individual with their role

• Prepare their people for leadership responsibilities through training, and

• Provide the opportunities to test their leadership skills prior to stepping into a leader’s shoes.

When management makes a decision to promote someone into a leadership position they are frequently under pressure to fill a crucial role. The pressure is created as the result of a vacancy in a leadership position or new projects/initiatives creating a need for new leaders.

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Management teams who do not understand leadership are caught flat footed. They end up taking a knee-jerk reaction, promoting people into leadership roles based on the wrong criteria.

Criteria that are used most frequently include experience in current position and technical ability.

Given the need for leaders to be credible there is some logic to these decisions; but they fail to consider the leadership skills which are critical for success.

Critical skills include the ability to: 1) instill confidence, 2) inspire a shared vision 3) build relationships 4) make tough decisions 5) get things done through other people.

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Not all leaders will be required to build and promote a vision for their team, but they may have to create alignment around a vision or champion the execution of tasks to achieve a vision.

Regardless of the role facing the leader, the challenge will be to achieve goals through other people. The people that need to be influenced include subordinates, executives, outsiders and peers. Many of these new leaders have always been able to achieve results in isolation and therefore find it difficult to motivate other people to deliver results.

Management teams fail to recognize leadership is not a one size fits all proposition. Different leadership styles and skills are needed in different situations. Ignoring this fact can result in good people being put into the wrong roles.

The really sad thing is that developing an effective leadership program is not rocket science, and companies don’t need to send their people to a six week course at The University of Notre Dame to teach them leadership.

There are multiple assessment tools, programs and coaches available that can help jump start leadership development programs without breaking the bank or consuming an inordinate amount of time.

If you want some ideas on how to get started, look here: http://truleadership.com/take-the-helm/ or follow this link: http://truleadership.com/hire-true-north/ to schedule a complimentary “Jump Start Your Leadership Program” session with me. In that session we will: 1) identify your leadership challenges 2) determine steps you can take immediately to create a culture of leadership 3) select criteria to help you select your best leaders.