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?

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