The top 10 downfalls of today’s business leaders

The Harvard Business Review recently published its list of the 10 fatal flaws that derail business leaders. While some may seem obvious, the study revealed something else about ineffective leaders that may surprise you.

The study’s findings were based on:

  • Feedback from more than 450 managers at Fortune 500 companies with a specific focus on the shared characteristics of 30 of those managers who were fired during the three years the study was conducted, and
  • Additional feedback from more than 11,000 everyday business leaders  (with a specific focus on the least effective 10%).

While a lot of the characteristics that made up the top 10 may seem like no-brainers, the study also revealed that most ineffective leaders weren’t even aware they exhibited negative behaviors. In fact, those who exhibited the most negative behaviors often rated themselves very positively when surveyed.

Here are the top 10 shared characteristics of ineffective leaders (in descending order):

  1. A lack of enthusiasm. Energy trickles down in corporate cultures and leaders who show a general lack of interest in pursuing new initiatives (or helping employees succeed) are a drain on productivity.
  2. Acceptance of mediocre results. Complacency is the name of the game. They aim low so there’s no risk of failure (or real success).
  3. A lack direction and vision. Leaders who don’t provide feedback or lack the foresight to develop new ways to help the organization evolve create a stagnant work environment.
  4. Poor judgment. They make decisions based more on whims or personal feelings than hard numbers and facts. As a result, they lose the faith of their troops (and upper management).
  5. Inability to collaborate. They lack the ability to compromise and they don’t respond well to constructive feedback from employees, subordinates or their superiors.
  6. Failure to practice what they preach. Ineffective leaders follow “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” politics. In many cases they feel they’re exempt from the same rules as employees because of their position.
  7. Resistant to change. They view progress as a threat. They don’t like learning new things and balk at the idea of taking on additional responsibilities, even if it means helping the company generate more revenue.
  8. Failure to learn from mistakes. This means they’re doomed to repeat them.
  9. A lack of communication skills. They criticize in public, praise in private (if they praise at all).  They tell employees what to do rather than empowering them by asking good questions that help them uncover the answers for themselves.
  10. Failure to develop others. They see anyone with potential as a threat. They’re much more concerned with having total control than increasing productivity by delegating responsibilities or developing top employees into reliable managers.

For more (or to purchase the complete findings of the study), visit “Ten Fatal Flaws That Derail Leaders” by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, Harvard Business Review.

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