Why Good Leaders Fail…


The internet and even book shelves are filled with numerous articles on the traits of bad managers, and some traits of good managers too. It might sound a bit ironic, but all my time spent on reading and searching has proven this – there are more bad managerial traits than there are the good ones available in any format.

But there are those that fall in-between, ones that were good managers, got excellent results for the business through people, created a thriving environment for everybody to grow, ensured individual motivators are leveraged to achieve key results, and in the process let a few of them grow, and if possible, even over grow themselves. I know these kind of idealistic phrases are generally associated with angels and some religious representations that cannot take a human form, but I have come across a few people (very few though!!!) who are capable of this. But the moment you put them in another environment or organization, they start to break down. All parts of the phrase above reflect the exact opposite now. They miserably fail in meeting the expectations of their direct reports and managers. They lose touch with reality and sometimes it also affects the lives of people around.

So why do such managers fail in one environment, while been wildly successful in another? These are some reasons that I have come across in my experience. Please do feel free to add your thoughts too.

  • The value systems are entirely different – Weather they move from a mature to an immature value system or vice versa, there is a natural tendency to under-perform. And if they move from a non-political (trust me, there are such for-profit organizations) to a highly political environment, it becomes a turmoil.
  • Parameters for trust are entirely different – If you read my posts even irregularly, you would have guessed it by now. I’m a stickler for trust. Some of my friends even call me an old-school person. Either way, I’ve been in situations where trust means different things for different people. In fact, I’ve been in situations where trust does not hold any meaning at all. So, if what we mean by trust is entirely different, between team members, peers and our supervisors, then this is a sure-fire recipe for failure.
  • The new manager is not as mature as you – This is again a sure-fire recipe for total disaster. You have gained experience the hard way, making terrible mistakes, embarrassing yourself, doing a few right things – basically the hard way. But your new manager is, hmm, political and raw. And then the conflict of interests starts. Either way, please remember, you are never going to win a battle with such a boss. Either work around them, or just work in a different place.
  • The manager is not able to establish credibility with the new team – This is entirely up to the manager. If the manager had been working with a team for a few years, then it is more like a known devil situation. But, direct and indirect reports don’t look at new manager as an unknown angel. The sooner the manager establishes credibility, the better. This is best done by exactly defining goals, guidelines to reach them and what will happen if those goals are not met or met. This will ensure people really don’t care about the person and concentrate on results. Not being popular is much better than making people chase shadows to be liked by a few people.
  • The Manger is probably too “good” – A lot of manager fall into this trap – in fact I’ve been there too when I started out as a first line manager almost 8 years back. They take management as a popularity contest and fail on their basic responsibilities – defining goals that directly impact the business, and helping the team achieve them too. This urge for being popular becomes all the more imperative when the manager takes charge of a new team.

So what do you think? Why do leaders fail sometimes, while being wildly successful elsewhere?


12 Lessons Learnt from Failure…


Learning from failure is a very important management principle that people talk about so much these days. It is a good tool no doubt, and I cannot claim that I don’t learn from them as much I can’t claim I don’t fail. So, here is a short list of my lessons from personal failures in whatever little experience I have. I definitely don’t have the breadth of experience to make a long list, so I will keep adding them as I get it.

  • Humility is an effective tool only if you have the power. If you don’t and still want to value humility, you are just a sitting duck.
  • If you think you are smarter than your boss, just shut up and find a better a job. You will not win the battle in case you decide to go for it.
  • If you do something embarrassing, own it, apologize and forget it. But beyond a point, pretend it didn’t happen. This holds true even if you have to live it up all the way.
  • Laugh at yourself. It’s much better than others laughing at you. And the chances of no one ever not laughing at you never exists.

These are lessons I learnt the hard way from other’s failures.

  • Behavior, intent & values should be consistent and complement one another. Bad behavior and good intent is pardonable. Good behavior but bad intent is a trait of the lesser being, easily identifiable, and not worth in the long run.
  • Insecurity breeds only in people who have absolutely no confidence in their skills and knowledge.
  • Having the right connections is no substitute for bad results. Even your connections will find ways of moving away if you produce bad results consistently.
  • Don’t do anything with money as the primary motivator. There is no way you will make enough money with inflation around.
  • But then, don’t pretend you don’t need money and you can survive on air and water. By the way, you need to pay your dues even for water.
  • Don’t try to work around people who deal with you honestly. You can never ever get back to them and there are not many people who do deal fairly.
  • BSing works in the short-term. Please don’t be apologetic in case you have short-term goals and BS to achieve it.
  • Kharma has its way of following you. Good and Bad!!!

So, what are your lessons from failures?

How to spot a ‘bad boss’


An excellent guest post by Adi Gaskell, Content & Communities Manager at CMI, UK. You can view Adi Gaskell’s linkedin profile here and follow him on twitter here.

The movie Bad Bosses is released this week.  Stanford academic Bob Sutton has made a point over the last few years of delving into what it is exactly that makes some bosses so bad.  He first coined the phrase bosshole in his 2007 book The No Asshole Rule.  The online urban dictionary defines a bosshole as:

Bosshole “an employer of a particularly evil nature, completely devoid of empathy or concern for anyone else. the deadly hybrid of boss and asshole.”

In his subsequent book Good Boss, Bad Boss he outlined various ways you can identify a bad boss (or bosshole if you will).  Here is his 10 point checklist

1. Kisses-up and kicks-down: If your boss is sycophantic to his boss, but super tough on those beneath him there’s a strong chance he could be a bosshole.

2. Can’t take it: Dishing out criticism is second nature to this boss, but if ire is turned on him then his skin proves very thin indeed.

3. Short fuse
: Anger is fine now and then, but if it’s a permanent fixture it can quickly breed a culture of fear, which is not a good thing at all.

4. Bad credit: You do the work, they take the credit.  Sound familiar?  This is a common trait of a bosshole.  The best bosses give credit where it’s due and make stars of their team.

5. Canker sore: Your boss decides to participate in your team activities, how do they often turn out?  Is it harmonious or full of conflict?  Talent is no excuse for being a bosshole.

6. Flamer: Email provides an easy channel for venting.  Is your boss a keyboard warrior that uses poor email etiquette to flame others, blind carbon copying to cover his back and other poor email form?

7. Downer: Does your boss make you feel excited and energized about coming into work, or does he fill you with dread when you set off each morning?  Bossholes tend to suck the energy from their team.

8. Card shark: In a knowledge economy, sharing information is a no brainer, but bossholes tend to keep knowledge close to their chest for their personal gain rather than that of their team or their employer.  Co-workers aren’t competitors that you have to defeat to get ahead, but a bosshole will think they are.

9. Army of one: Think back to your school days when you pick out classmates to play on your football team.  The bosshole would be the last pick without doubt because despite their talents people avoid them like the plague.

10. Open architecture: How would the prospective boss respond if a copy of The No Asshole Rule appeared on her desk?” Be careful if the answer is, “Duck!

This is a guest post by Adi Gaskell, editor of The Management Blog for CMI.

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