Today we’re going to look at leadership, how it can fail, and how it can succeed. When we look at the leaders at the top of the organizational chart, we usually don’t think of them as the worst leadership examples in the organization. However, recent data has shown that to be the case.

The research, taken from a meta-analysis of DDI’s assessment data from close to 4,000 leaders worldwide, finds most front-line leaders lack the fundamental interaction skills and behaviors required to be effective leaders. And senior leaders are even worse… Indeed, the research shows, 90 percent of executives act before checking their understanding of an issue and are ineffective at inviting ideas from others. And only 11 percent successfully preserve their colleagues’ self-esteem and display empathy that would demonstrate interpersonal diplomacy. Front-line leaders fared only slightly better in these areas than their seniors. Source

The authors of the article point back to the simple practice of conversations to help differentiate good leaders from bad. Good ones will talk with their people. Even if the person ultimately disregards the advice from the other sources, it’s validating to know that you have the opportunity to provide input. Let’s look at a few ways leaders can do better by serving their people well.

Leadership at its best

Last week I had the opportunity to see Dr. Ken Blanchard speak. He’s written more books than most people have ever read, and his core message is about servant leadership. I picked up some great comments from the presentation and want to share three of those with you today that tie in directly with the story above. Your leaders need to hear these, so feel free to share a few as appropriate with your leaders at all levels.

  1. Leaders should ask themselves this question on a daily basis: “Am I here to serve or be served?” If you’re there to be served, then forget everything you know about effective leadership and just do whatever feels good. You’ll get what you deserve. If you’re there to serve others, then make the time and effort for that purpose a priority. Be humble. Humility isn’t about thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less!
  2. As a leader, it’s your job to help define values, goals, and a vision. In the absence of some or all of those elements, there is one driving need: take care of yourself at all costs. That is not the workplace that you are trying to create, so be sure to develop some shared goals to help your team understand where you are going and how they fit into that puzzle. Again–if you don’t give them someone to serve, they will serve themselves, and the same goes for you!
  3. There may be a culture change that is needed within your organization. If people spend more time clinging to policies and saying “That’s against policy” or “We don’t allow that” more often than not, then you need to look at how you can say “Yes” more often. Companies with amazing customer service train their people with this mindset: “we’re a customer service company that provides xyz product/service.” Focus more on taking care of the customer than on abiding by policies, and you’ll have happier customers in short order.

With your help we can make senior leaders the best example of leadership in our organizations. That sort of change flows down to all levels and permeates the organization, so don’t wait around to start some big “leadership development” program or anything else. This needs to begin today.

How are you serving others in the workplace? Is the example you’re setting one that you would be proud of? Do others follow your example?

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