5 Reasons Why Good Leaders Fail

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We’ve all witnessed in the past, the very public failure of some famous leaders from virtually every kind of enterprise. Sports, entertainment and politics to mention a few. They would appear to be the king of the mountain one moment, the next they’re bottom of the pile. Many of us would say that such devastating failure could never befall us, reasons ranging from how hard we worked to get to where we currently are to believing we are invulnerable. Unknown to most of us, it’s not that hard to go from successful leader to catastrophic failure. The very attributes that make good, successful leaders, if overdone can set anyone up for failure. This is what makes the line between succeeding and failing in leadership roles a thin one indeed. As a leader, understanding that your skills , knowledge and expertise would be constantly challenged by your environment is important. Good leaders failing is usually the result of one or more of these 5 reasons.

  1. Compromising on integrity: The foremost trait of a good leader is their integrity. As a leader, there are two major things that affect your credibility, namely: how competent you are – i.e what you do and your character – who you are. When a leader puts the end above the means and thinks that any and every means is justifiable as long as results are achieved, the result is a compromise in integrity. The moment a good leader thinks of unethical methods as a necessity for the greater good, that’s when he/she starts on the path to failure. When this starts, such leaders begin to see others as mere objects necessary to achieve their goals. To avoid this as a leader, never be afraid to put all your dealings under the most impartial scrutiny. Always hold yourself to high, unwavering standards and accept nothing less from yourself. You can always find out from people around you who share your standards if they’ve ever felt like a means to your ends.
  2. Vision vs obsession: Every leader needs a good idea of what they want to achieve, and what they and their brand are all about. This vision is not just for themselves, but also for the organization they represent. This vision and the determination to achieve it could easily become an obsession. The once-good leader begins to alienate his team, clients and partners and becomes willing to achieve this vision, regardless of what the cost might be.
  3. Losing focus: The trappings of success are many and easy to get distracted by. These trappings can cause a once-focused leader to forget what got him where he is in the first place and lose sight of the really important things. When a good leader loses focus, they lose their distinguishing ability to always see the bigger picture. They get obsessed with details and start focusing on trivial and unimportant things. Good leadership is often the result of who the leader is. The better you become as a person, the better your leadership skills get. When you stop developing yourself and focus solely on doing, your leadership suffers for it. At any point in time, you should be able to concisely state what your main focus is. If you can’t, then know that you lack clarity. Another test is whether you take on tasks that others can do just as well. Leaders should focus on leading first. Organizing, managing and giving direction should be your main tasks as a leader.
  4. Confidence vs ego: Subordinates love a leader that commands attention, takes control and gets results. But success can create overconfidence and cause a good leader to have an excess of ego. When this happens, it’s no longer about the team or organization, but now centers on the leader. Some posit that ego is the primary cause of failure in leaders.
  5. Fear of failure vs the desire to succeed: When a good leader has been successful in the past, the pressure of expectations makes them want to continue performing well. This pressure could cause a good leader to be driven by the fear of failure, as opposed to being motivated by the desire to succeed. The more a leader can maintain a successful performance, the more costly his/her failure is perceived to be. When the fear of failure is your main driver, you can no longer take the calculated risks you once took, out of the fear that they won’t pay off. Fear of failure is also a major killer of innovation. We come to rely only on what has been tried and tested and cease to find new ways of doing things. While good leaders abstain from taking reckless risks on the off chance that they just might pay off, they also don’t let the fear of failing prevent them from taking any risks at all.

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