Why Do Leaders Fail?

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By GrowthWorks, Inc.

Why do leaders fail? If anything universal can be learned for an examination of why high-profile CEO's fall from the pinnacles of corporate America, poor execution and people problems are the main reasons.

According to a study reported in Fortune magazine, it's rarely a lack of intelligence or vision, as many might expect, that dooms top corporate executives. "It's bad execution. As simple as that: not getting things done, being indecisive, and not delivering on commitments," the authors say.

One of the most damaging demonstrations of that flawed performance, the study says, is the "failure to put the right people in the right jobs - and the related failure to fix people problems in time. Specifically, failed CEO's are often unable to deal with a few key subordinates who sustained performance deeply harms the company." In retrospect, the study says, many of these troubled CEO's had a gut instinct about their people problems but suppressed any thoughts about taking action.

In evaluating 38 executives Fortune labeled as having failed as leaders, the study says: 17 had people problems. 15 suffered decision gridlock. 20 were hampered by "life syndrome," meaning they held on to old ways that were no longer effective.

In the end, 30 of the 38 are evaluated as having led their companies to poor earnings, and the message is clear that the unsatisfactory financial performance is a result of these leadership shortcomings.

Unlike CEO's, leaders at lower levels in organizations are seldom strapped with sole responsibility for a company's earnings - good or bad. But clearly, there are lessons here for any leader. Shortcomings, in leveraging the strengths and managing the weaknesses of staff members can be detrimental to any leader, as can slow or ineffective decision-making.

The question every CEO and every leader should be asking: Are you worried enough about the right things: execution, decisiveness, follow-through, and delivering on commitments?

GrowthWorks, Inc.

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