In this article, I will explore some of the reasons why leaders fail to lead properly and the impact of their failure on their teams and organizations. Other than giving my own viewpoint and addressing leadership in a wider context, I will share some of my own experiences in support of my sentiments on the subject.
Leadership is the art of inspiring, guiding, and empowering others to achieve a common goal. As lead, I always felt that I was responsible for charting a course of action, making critical decisions, and creating an environment that fosters growth and development. Although this was not as easy as it sounds in theory, what helped me was that I had a very sound situational awareness about my position. Having said that, leadership is not an easy task, and many leaders fail to lead properly. In my opinion, this happens because leaders often do not understand the dynamics of their role.
Lack of vision and failure to communicate
One of the primary reasons why leaders fail to lead properly is a lack of vision. I can recall a mentor telling me that a leader without a clear vision is like a ship without a compass, drifting aimlessly without a sense of direction. A vision is a roadmap that guides a leader and his/her team towards a common goal. Without a vision, leaders are unable to communicate a clear direction to their team, and this can lead to confusion, disorientation and lack of motivation. Looking back, when I coached and managed football (soccer) teams, I had to set and share my vision with my players, the club and my support team. Once they all had a clear understanding of my expectations and direction, we improved our performance and achieved a great deal success.
For me, another reason why leaders fail to lead properly is a failure to communicate effectively. Leaders who are unable to communicate clearly, concisely, and consistently are bound to struggle in their leadership role. Effective communication is essential for building trust, creating a positive work environment, and ensuring that everyone is working towards the same goal.
As I explained in another article titled ‘Workplace Communication and Change’ and published few months ago; effective communication characterizes the safety culture of organizations. Hence, it is essential for leaders to have a talent in terms of delivering messages successfully in order to ensure a properly safe and healthy operational environment.
When leaders fail to communicate effectively, their team may become disillusioned and demotivated. Successively, this can lead to poor performance, low productivity, and high turnover. In terms of communication, I consider myself fortunate as I have a good natural communicative ability. In all honesty, I cannot think of any time that I struggled to communicate well with any member of staff under my supervision.
If you don’t have emotional intelligence then . . .
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one’s emotions and those of others. Leaders who lack emotional intelligence are often unable to connect with their team members on a personal level. And this can create a sense of detachment and alienation. When leaders fail to understand the emotions and motivations of their team members, they may make insensitive and/or inappropriate decisions. Having myself undergone leadership development programmes, I remember emotional intelligence theory was a central part of the whole learning package.
For some time during my first steps in management, I struggled to be an effective leader. I do not mean that I was bad at my role. However, I could not manage my emotions appropriately. And this made me look and appear as ‘over-sensitive’ around many aspects. Therefore, looking back, I fully understand the need to have an ability of high self and social awareness for those who want to develop as productive leaders.
Learn how to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’
On a different note, leaders who fail to delegate effectively are often overwhelmed and overstressed. Delegation is the process of assigning tasks and responsibilities to others and it is essential for effective leadership. We now know, that when leaders fail to delegate, they may become bogged down in day-to-day tasks. This can prevent them from focusing on more critical strategic issues.
Additionally, failing to delegate can create a sense of mistrust and disempowerment among team members, leading to resentment and low morale. Few year ago I worked for a short period in a consultative / supportive position with a major organization. There, I came across a peculiar situation. The person in charge of the project had a dreadful tendency to micromanage every member of his team. The micromanaging tactics led to a toxic working environment, unhappy workforce and vast workload for everyone.
I also recall during a particular period in my career when my responsibilities were extremely complex and my work was at full overload. I started early every day, stayed late, dealing with hundred demands all by myself. Then I learned how to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ while I started leading instead of doing. Life became easier and my managerial performance better. Crucially, now I realise the importance of proper delegation.
Accountability and Responsibility matter differently
Lastly, leaders who fail to hold themselves and others accountable for their actions are unlikely to lead effectively. Accountability is the cornerstone of effective leadership, and it is essential for creating a culture of trust, respect, and responsibility. When leaders fail to hold themselves and others accountable, they may create a culture of blame, finger-pointing, and excuse-making. This can lead to a lack of trust, low morale, and poor performance. My first lessons in this area were during my military service with the Greek Air Force. Once the basic training period was over; my main tutor ensured that I clearly understood the significance of taking responsibility. More crucially, he was adamant that accepting responsibility was the basis for generating your team’s and colleagues’ confidence in you. After all these years, ‘accountability’ and ‘responsibility’ remain the foundation of my management style and how I do things.
At the end . . .
In conclusion, leadership is a complex and challenging role that requires a unique set of skills and attributes. One who holds such role needs to also manage many things at the same time. From juggling personalities, dealing with politics to know how to raise motivation and provide mentoring. Unfortunately, many leaders fail to lead properly, and this can have a significant impact on their teams and organizations. In my opinion, leaders who lack vision, fail to communicate and lack emotional intelligence. Similarly, those who fail to delegate, and lack accountability are unlikely to be effective in their leadership roles.
Besides, weak leaders fail also to take responsibility. As result, they create around them a bad culture which discourages their team to be productive. To lead properly, leaders must develop a clear vision, communicate effectively, cultivate emotional intelligence, delegate tasks and responsibilities, and hold themselves and others accountable. By doing so, they can inspire and empower their teams to achieve their full potential.