One common area of coaching that I spend time with executives is on working to improve their leadership effectiveness. More and more executives are struggling with their leadership ability especially in managing their people. I call them the “leaderless leader”. Essentially, these are the leaders who have a team of followers, but have a great deal of difficulties to exercise control and influence over them.
These leaders come in with remarks like:
“They do not listen to me, they break their promises every time, they answer me back rudely, they bypass me and go to someone else, they behave in a confrontational manner each time I ask them for reasons, etc.”
This “leaderless leadership epidemic” is becoming a major worry. Today, we cannot automatically get people to obey or follow you solely through your position.
This is because the “constituents” are indeed a different breed of people compared to those “die-hard loyalists” of the 20th century where our big sounding titles and loud voice often got our followers to listen and execute. Today, people are more exposed, have more choices, know their rights, and demand more.
So if leaders do not accept the realities of the modern world, they cannot accomplish much by authority alone? The consequence is usually they end up doing the job themselves or heaping the workload on a few “loyalists”. This will result in other issues of stress, discontentment, frustrations, and other issues such as business disruptions, sabotage and low productivity.
So what causes this to happen? There are some common reasons that make these leaders “leaderless”. We usually blame the followers for making life difficult for the leaders but it is actually the leaders who through their own doing, lose their personal powers and credibility in the eyes of their followers.
Here are the common reasons.
- Leaders lacking integrity. Acting in ways that reflect no moral standing and not knowing the difference between conducting yourself in the right or wrong way.
- Poor decision making. They either act without much logic (even common sense) in making sound decisions, or afraid or hesitate in a timely manner.
- Poor planning. They are disorganised in developing a definitive and clear work plan that provides clarity on what people have to do.
- Lack guts. They are faint hearted. This invites disaster through their inaction and reluctance to move when the going is tough out there.
- Lack management skills. They are messy and do not have a systematic and resourceful approach to get to the desired goal through well-aligned critical activities.
- Unreliable. Not trustworthy, not dependable (even indisciplined).
- Lack loyalty to superiors and subordinates. They are self-centered (and selfish) and take care of their own interest only, and do not keep their people well informed or defend their interests whenever required.
- Lack enthusiasm and optimism. They give low energy, a cheerless disposition and pessimistic outlook.
If you have any of the following issues, you need to change before it’s too late.
A self-assessment leadership test
- Do you have your bosses or staff offer feedback to you on your leadership skills?
- Do you honestly believe that people are important in supporting and defining your career as a successful leader?
- Do you respect your people and treat them with high regard?
- Do you have habits that may cause your people to be disengaged from you or not want to work with you?
- Do you willingly ask for feedback, formally or informally from your people?
- Do money, status, power and popularity get in the way of you experiencing healthy and conscious relationships at work?
- Are you ever curious about how people perceive you?
- Do you work hard and continuously to improve your people skills because you feel that this can spur you to greater success?
If you answered with a YES less than 5 times, it’s time to relook at your leadership and ensure you are not a “leaderless” leader.