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7 Deadly Leadership Sins

Posted by on June 5, 2015 at 1:35 AM

Whether you are a new leader or a seasoned pro, committing one of these "sins" can dethrone you as corporate kingpin (or queenpin); and kill your career.


Arrogance. Having a know-it-all, superior, holier than thou attitude has been the downfall of many leaders. Arrogant leaders have a tendency to intimidate or bully subordinates; ignore, reject, or refuse to listen to anyone else's ideas or feedback; blame others, and refuse to accept personal responsibility when mistakes happen. By being self-absorbed in their own "greatness", these leaders can derail companies by making bad business decisions based on instinct, without the benefit of critical information or analysis.


Greed.  In the age of multimillion dollar salaries, exorbitant bonuses, golden parachute clauses, and other perks, you have to wonder why so many prominent leaders have exchanged their Armani suits for the coveted orange jumpsuit. Having it all is not enough for some leaders. They want more.  The combination of supreme power and unquestioned authority provide the prime opportunity for leaders to engage in illegal activities in the quest to have more. According to psychologist Ian Robertson, "Power and money both act on the brain’s reward system, which if over-stimulated for long periods develops appetites that are difficult to satisfy."


Power.  Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Lord Acton

Closely associated with greed is power. According to Robertson, too much power makes leaders  "egocentric and un-empathic, greedy for rewards."  Studies show that power has the same affects on the brain as cocaine. Leadership can be a power grab, and too much power can transform corporate leaders into ruthless, insensitive tyrants more concerned with profits than people. Robertson advises, "Too much power for too long causes dangerous changes in the brain, which include reckless disinhibition, risk-blindness and difficulty in seeing things from other’s perspective." These leaders commonly lose touch with the organization's founding principles and use their power for personal gain, even if it leads to their own destruction.


Hypocrisy.  Talking the talk, but not walking the walk. There are numerous incidences of leaders who talk about ethics, collaboration, open door policy and more, who fail to follow their own advice. When people perceive a leader as disingenuous, they feel angry, violated, betrayed, or develop an overall sense of distrust. One example of a hypocritical leader is former U. S. Congressman Mark Foley. Foley chaired the House Caucus of Missing and Exploited Children, and spearheaded the introduction of a bill to prohibit suggestive digital and print images of underage models. It was later discovered that Congressman Foley had been sending explicit emails and instant messages to underage congressional pages (remember them?). Foley resigned in disgrace. How ironic. Foley was subjected to the very law he helped create.


Inflexibility. Traditionalism, stubbornness, analysis paralysis, or whatever you call it, leaders can seal their own doom and an organization's fate by refusing to adapt to change. Leaders must stay current on trends in their respective industries to understand and anticipate needed changes and implement strategies to address those changes. The inability or refusal to flex with a changing business climate can result in sustainability problems for organizations. Think Circuit City.


Misspeak (Lying). While lying has not gone out of fashion it has taken on a more sophisticated name, "misspeak."  When leaders are caught lying, it immediately chips away at their creditability, signaling a lack of integrity and trustworthiness. We watched several high profile leaders, like General David Petraeus, former presidential candidate John Edwards, and infamous Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, fall from grace to severely damage or end their otherwise stellar careers. When it comes to corporations, leaders who lie or misrepresent the truth can be just as lethal. For example, Enron executives were accused of lying to the public about the health of the company, Enron went bankrupt. Lying quickly erodes employees, customers, and the public's trust in a leader.


Incompetence.  Incompetent leaders can destroy an organization's effectiveness. These leaders use scare tactics like fear and intimidation to mask their inadequacies. They surround themselves with people who are agreeable with everything they do (no matter how ridiculous it is). Incompetent leaders breed chaos and havoc in organizations by failing to provide clear direction, utilizing ineffective or nonexistent communication, and creating environments of divisiveness. These leaders should be fired; however, they continue to stay in positions because they are not held accountable for their actions. Despite sharp declines in profits, productivity, and service, incompetent leaders remain at the top of organizations; and continue to be rewarded for their poor performance. Why? Often CEOs are not involved in the day-to-day operations, leaving the incompetent leader in charge. Also  boards of directors who are "hands off," or who have external relationships with the incompetent leaders further exacerbate the problem. Being branded as incompetent, could potentially hurt leaders' chances of transitioning to similar roles in other organizations.


Dr. Pinkey A. Stewart is a leadership development and employee engagement strategist, and owner of SuccessZone. She is a talented trainer, workshop facilitator, and keynote speaker who provides creative leadership strategies to small and mid-sized businesses to maximize employee productivity. For booking information contact 


#leadership #leader #management #business #talentmanagement #humanresources #employeeengagement










Categories: leadership, professional/personal development, employee engagement

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