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11 Reasons Leaders Fail

I seem a bit obsessed with why leaders fail at the moment. I think it’s because there is so much written on ‘how to be a great leader’ yet it’s quite obvious when you look around that most leadership is bad leadership. So, I’m more attracted to the idea of identifying and working on what we are getting wrong first. Anyway, here goes with a little more on leaders and failure…


Score yourself with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for each of these and see how many you get out of 11. Be honest: no-one else will know but you.

1. Arrogance. You’re right. Everyone else is wrong.
2. Melodrama. You always grab the centre of attention
3. Volatility. Your mood shifts are sudden and unpredictable
4. Excessive caution. The next decision you make may be your first.
5. Habitual distrust. You focus on the negatives.
6. Aloofness. You disengage and disconnect.
7. Mischievousness. You know that rules are only suggestions.
8. Eccentricity. It’s fun to be different just for the sake of it.
9. Passive resistance. Your silence is misinterpreted as acceptance.
10. Perfectionism. You get the little things right while the big things go wrong.
11. Eagerness to please. You want to win any popularity contest.

So, how did you score? Before you get too pleased with yourself, even if you only gave yourself a ‘yes’ on one of the 11 it can be your downfall – EACH of these is a common reason leaders fail. Well, don’t blame me, you walked right into it: you only had to read the headline of this item properly to be pre-warned.

– These 11 points are from the book
Why CEOs Fail: The 11 behaviours that can derail your climb to the top and how to manage them by David Dotlich, Peter Cairo et al. 2003. It’s not just for CEOs, despite its title.

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