5 Important Life-Facts To Remember When a Leader Falls

by Mr. Lior Levin · 37 comments

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This is a guest post courtesy of Lior again.

Excellent advice to ensue!

Happy reading BGB’ers, do make him feel welcome by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.

The failure of a leader does not necessarily mean the failure of your organization. Nevertheless, aside from bankruptcy, the fall of a key leader may be one of the most threatening events in the life of a company.

How your company picks up the pieces after a leader’s fall and charts a new course will determine the future of your company. Identifying the kinds of leadership failures, the possible causes of leadership failure, and the ways to plan for the future can make all of the difference for the future of your company.

When a Leader Falls

To say that a leader falls isn’t necessarily the same thing as a leader failing to meet revenue goals or to keep a department happy. The fall of a leader typically refers to an ethical failing that could range from financial to personal indiscretions in the workplace. These violations of trust among colleagues can threaten the culture of trust in a company, undermine productivity, and even send a company’s stock plummeting.

Gael O’Brien, columnist for The Week in Ethics, writes at Business Ethics “Just as leaders don’t get a free pass when they miss performance goals, there ultimately isn’t a free pass when ethical standards aren’t met.

Trust is essential in sustaining business performance. Leadership without ethical behavior is a failure of leadership.”

1. Managing the Clean Up

Oftentimes a fallen leader must be replaced due to ethical and legal concerns, but replacing a leader does not mean you’ve solved the problem.

You need to communicate to customers and employees that you value trust and transparency without turning the fallen leader into an enemy or victim. Fallen leaders may feel attacked or abandoned if they are forced to resign or are fired.

How you treat a leader at his/her most vulnerable can significantly change the difficulty of the transition to a new leader. In fact, the last thing you want is for a leader to emerge after the smoke has cleared in order to renew debate over the circumstances of his/her fall.

Lisa Whittle, author of {w}hole,  writes from first-hand experience at MichaelHyatt.com, “You must know that after a time of sabbatical, the leader you have followed will likely want to lead again. You must know that he or she will feel hurt and will likely attempt to self-protect.”

2. Learn From Failure

After finding a new leader or restoring a fallen leader, organizations will need to learn from their mistakes and rethink their approaches to leadership. One good place to start is the leadership culture in a company.

Neil Farber, the author of The Blame Game, suggests that organizations need to create healthy cultures for dealing with smaller failures and then learning from them. “Near misses are blessings in disguise and should be treated as valuable learning opportunities.

In high risk industries, employees are encouraged to think of how systems may fail. It is this forward thinking approach that is vital to continually assessing new strategies and initiatives without being self-limiting and abandoning innovation.”

4. How to Correct Leadership Problems

In addition to changing a company’s leadership culture, new systems need to be put into place in order to ensure the next leader or team of leaders won’t fail. Ray Williams writes in Psychology Today that many of our leadership failures today can be traced back to poor training and bad habits that developed when new leaders take the helm without the experience they need.

Williams suggests the following on-boarding program: “A mentor or coach should be assigned to assist and support the new hire and have structured extensive networking opportunities both internally and externally.

As well, an individual plan for growth and performance must be put in place and deliverables are jointly defined for the first 120 days.”

5. Clues That a Leader May Fall

There are signs that some experts have recognized among leaders who are on the brink of failure. Mark Sanborn, an author and the president of Sanborn and Associates, distinguishes several ways a leader may be on the path to a fall:

  • Poor communication
  • Distraction from the vision
  • Risk Aversion
  • Ethical failures
  • Poor personal health

Perhaps problems with poor communication can be repaired, but a serious character issue completely undermines a leader’s effectiveness and needs to be addressed before it becomes a serious issue for the company.

Tim Irwin, the author of the leadership book De-Railed, writes that leaders must be “guided by an inner compass that fosters trust on the part of their followers. That compass is character. When character is seriously compromised, derailment often follows.”

Lisa Whittle suggests that one of the key signs of a failing leader is rule by intimidation. The insecurity behind this outlook suggests that such a leader is bound to fall soon.

Ray Williams adds some helpful observations about these trends among fallen leaders, especially CEOs, in Psychology Today.

Williams recounts the work of Sydney Finkelstein, the author of Why Smart Executives Fail: “They see themselves and their companies as being dominant; they identify close closely with the company, losing the boundary between personal and corporate identify; they think they have all the answers; they ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely supportive; they are obsessed with their image in the public and media; they underestimate obstacles; and they stubbornly rely on past achievements.”

The successful leader today needs significant support in addition to a humble, team-centered approach where the leader maintains a clear vision that enables team members to do their best work.

A fallen leader is certainly a tragedy, but once you’ve seen how a leadership system has failed, you’re in the best position to create a healthy leadership culture that ensures leaders and employees have the best system in place for the future.

The end. Hehe. Hey you’re still here! Awesome. If you liked this read, please do me a favor and share it with your friends. Lior and I kindly thank you. 😉

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