Bad Business Leaders– Incompetent, Clown, Arrogant, Dunce, Shady..: Most Companies are Clueless at Picking Leaders…

Bad business leaders is a serious problem in many businesses, organizations… at all levels of management, globally… According to Gallup surveys; only one-in-five (18%) of those currently in management roles demonstrate a high-level of talent for managing others, while another two-in-ten (20%) show a basic talent for it…

Still, this means that organizations are missing-the-mark, with high-level managerial talent, in 82% of their hiring decisions, which is an alarming problem for a business’ sustainability, employee’s engagement, and the development of high-performing business cultures… This basic flaw and inefficiency in picking leadership talent costs companies hundreds of billions of dollars, annually…

Gallup’s study included; hundreds of businesses and organizations, and it measured the engagement of 27 million employees and more than 2.5 million work-units over the past two decades. No matter– industry, size, location… they find that executives are struggling to unlock the mystery of why performance varies so immensely from one work-group to the next. Performance metrics fluctuate widely and unnecessarily, within most companies; in no small part from lack of consistency in how people are managed…

It’s common practice that most companies promote workers into managerial positions because they seemingly deserve it, rather than because they have the talent for it… The good news is that sufficient management talent exists in every company, but it’s often hiding in plain sight… For too long, companies have wasted time, energy, and resources hiring the wrong managers, and then attempting to train them– to be who they are not… Nothing fixes the wrong pick…

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Businesses that get it right, however, and pick managers based on talent– thrive and gain a significant competitive advantage… But, according to James Baldock; bad management traits can be like dirty socks, you don’t want them but you leave them somewhere and forget about them until you randomly have their stench.   Unfortunately, people often hold onto their bad traits and characteristics to the point of disaster, destruction… Maybe this sounds a little too dramatic, but bad business leaders’ traits can be as obvious as a– serious anger problems, and right through to the subtle issues of passive aggressive, disorganized…

According to Mike Myatt; a leader not capable of managing or not fully invested in their team won’t have a team– at least not an effective one. Real leaders are accountable, but leaders that are not accountable ‘to’ their people will eventually be held accountable by’ their people… It’s the culture, stupid– forget this and all other efforts will be dysfunctional… remember the saying; ‘talent begets talent’, well it’s true, but also talent that aligns with the organization culture produces better results than talent that does not… According to Abraham Lincoln; nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power…

In the article Traits of Bad Business Leaders by Major Jeffrey Ferguson writes: We tend to focus on character traits that make great leaders and we hear them time-and-time again, e.g.; integrity; sacrifice, values, selflessness… But what about character traits of bad leaders? This is the other side of leadership that is rarely discussed, studied… certainly we can all can think of someone we would call a bad leader… According to Barbara Kellerman; there are seven character traits, flaws… which consume a person and arguably make them a bad leader… consider the following:

  • Incompetent: They lack the will or skill, or both, to sustain effective action. The reasons for incompetence are too numerous to list, but include a lack of education experience expertise, drive, energy ability to focus, flexibility, ability, stability and maturity… just to name a few.
  • Rigid: They are stiff and unyielding, and unwilling or unable to adapt to new ideas, new information or changing times.
  • Intemperate: They lack self-control. He or she is surrounded by people who are unwilling or unable to intervene. Typically, intemperate behavior plays out in private. When the behavior is exposed, it’s often personally or professionally destructive
  • Callous: They are uncaring or unkind. The needs, wants, and wishes of the members of the group or organization are ignored or discounted by this type of leader.
  • Corrupt: They lie, cheat, steal… to such a degree they put self-interest ahead of public or group interest. Sadly, corruption is like a virus and no organization is immune. The path of corruption is easy to follow, and the benefits are great.
  • Insular: They minimize or disregard health and welfare of those outside their group or organization for which they are responsible… One group competes against another for scarce resources. The insular puts group’s interests ahead of the common interest… But, isolation is not in the best interests of the group or the organization, overall…
  • Evil: They commit atrocities and uses pain as an instrument of power. The harm done to members of the group is severe and can be physical, psychological or both.

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In the book Why Smart Executives Fail by Sydney Finkelstein writes: How do high-flying companies become complete failures… It turns out that all the senior executives at these companies have specific habits-traits in common; I called them– ‘habits of spectacularly unsuccessful executives’… and these habits should be early warning signs (i.e., cautionary tales) to other so-called, ‘unbeatable’ companies:

  • See themselves and as dominating their environment: This first habit may be the most insidious, since it appears to be highly desirable. Shouldn’t a company try to dominate its business environment, shape the future of its markets and set the pace within them? Yes, but there’s a catch: They vastly overestimate the extent to which they actually control events and vastly underestimate the role of chance and circumstance in their success… leaders who fall prey to this belief suffer from the illusion of personal pre-eminence…
  • No clear boundary between their personal interests and corporation’s interests: Like the first habit, this one seems innocuous, perhaps even beneficial. We want business leaders to be completely committed to their companies, with their interests tightly aligned with those of the company. But digging deeper, you find that failed executives weren’t identifying too little with the company, but rather too much. Instead of treating companies as enterprises that they needed to nurture; failed leaders treated them as extensions of themselves…
  • Think they have all the answers: Here’s the image of executive competence that we’ve been taught to admire for decades; a dynamic leader making a dozen decisions a minute, dealing with many crises simultaneously, and taking only seconds to size up situations that have stumped everyone else for days. The problem with this picture is that it’s a fraud. Leaders who are invariably crisp and decisive tend to settle issues so quickly they have no opportunity to grasp the ramifications. Worse, because these leaders need to feel they have all the answers, they aren’t open to learning new ones…
  • Ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them: Leaders who think their job is to instill belief in their vision also think that it’s their job to get everyone to buy into it. Anyone who doesn’t rally to their cause is undermining the vision. Hesitant managers have a choice: Get with the plan or leave… The problem with this approach is that it’s both unnecessary and destructive. Leaders don’t need to have everyone unanimously endorse their vision to have it carried out successfully. In fact, by eliminating all dissenting and contrasting viewpoints, destructive leaders cut themselves off from their best chance of seeing and correcting problems as they arise. Sometimes leaders who seek to stifle dissent only drive it underground. Once this happens, the entire organization falters.
  • Consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image: You know these leaders; high-profile executives who are constantly in public eye. The problem is that amid all media frenzy, accolades… their management efforts become shallow and ineffective. Instead of actually accomplishing things they often settle for appearance of accomplishing things… Behind these media darlings is a simple fact of executive life: Leaders don’t achieve a high level of media attention without devoting themselves assiduously to public relations. When leaders are obsessed with their image, they have little time for operational details.
  • Underestimate obstacles: Part of the allure of being a leader is the opportunity to espouse a vision. Yet, when leaders become so enamored of their vision, they often overlook or underestimate the difficulty of actually getting there… And when, it turns out, that the obstacles they casually waved aside become more troublesome than they anticipated, these leaders have a habit of plunging full-steam into the abyss.
  • Stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past: Many leaders on their way to becoming ‘spectacularly unsuccessful’ accelerate their company’s decline by reverting to what they regard as tried-and-true methods. In their desire to make the most of what they regard as their core strengths, they cling to a static business model. They insist on providing a product to a market that no longer exists, or they fail to consider innovations in areas other than those that made the company successful in the past. Instead of considering a range of options that fit new circumstances, they use their own careers as the only point of reference and do the things that made them successful in the past…

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While many people are endowed with some good leadership traits… however, very few people have the unique combination of talent needed to help a team achieve excellence in a way that significantly improves a company’s performance… In William Shakespeare’s play– ‘The Winter’s Tale’; the ‘clown’ (leader) is not very bright (he’s easily duped). But overall, the clown’s job is to help inject a bit of levity (by way of his dim-witted antics) into the play (i.e., the business), which is what Shakespeare’s ‘rustic’ clown figures tend to do… While the clown doesn’t have much going on in the brains department, he is a player (i.e., a leader)…

According to Mike Myatt; it’s important to realize– just because someone holds a position of leadership doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Put another way, not all leaders are created equal… The problem many organizations seem to suffer is a recognition problem– they can’t seem to recognize good leaders from bad ones…

However, this recognition issue is easier said then done, maybe there should be a test– Is there a simple test that can quickly determine an executive’s leadership ability? The short answer is ‘yes’, but keep in mind that simple and fast aren’t always the same thing as being effective: There are a plethora of diagnostic tests, profiles, evaluations, assessments… that offer insights into leadership ability, or a lack thereof.

The problem is that they are overly analytical, very theoretical, very often subject to bias… If business has troubles identifying leaders or has shortage of leaders, you don’t have testing problem– you have a leadership problem… And, one of the primary responsibilities of leadership is to create more, better leaders, managers… at all levels-of-management…