10 Major Reasons for Leadership Failure

By | July 27, 2017

[July 27, 2017]  Leadership failure has been around since humans began to walk on this Earth but it has also been big in the news recently; anytime one listens to the media, failure is there glaring us in the face.  Lately, the focus has been on political leadership failures but for our purposes here we should not ignore others examples.

No one that I ever knew escaped witnessing a major leadership failure; some were actually a part of that failure.  In the military, it’s easy to find huge leader failures because of the uncertainty -like in combat predictability is lacking – so failure is rather common.

What I want to address here are the major reasons for leadership failure.  These reasons apply to all leaders but new leaders are particularly vulnerable and are likely to trip-up early in their tenure.  What is most important about those failures is the ability of a leader to quickly learn from them and ensure others don’t make the same mistakes.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister

Here are 10 major reasons for leadership failure:

  1. Over-confidence: the tendency of humans to overestimate their abilities is a common but only through experience can a leader’s views be properly tested. Under confidence is also a reason for failure but not as much as over confidence.
  2. Lack of motivation: a lackadaisical attitude and complacency can infect anyone who fails to remain focused and enthusiastic about what they are doing. Motivation is contagious.
  3. Poor attitude: leaders are expected to be the cheerleader for their organization and to have people willingly follow them.  When a leader’s attitude is poor, people tend to turn away.
  4. Failure to delegate authority: failed leaders are those who pass the buck regarding responsibility to others yet don’t give them the authority to carry out assigned duties. Good leaders know they are always responsible regardless of how much they delegate.
  5. Blindness to reality: whether by ideology, willfulness, or simply intellectual laziness, not knowing what is going on puts a leader at great risk of failure.
  6. Failure to listen: leaders don’t have all the answers and so they must listen to those who are closest to the real action and have the knowledge to make good decisions.
  7. Having wrong expectations: this has to do with expectation management and how leaders don’t take the time or make the effort to do well here.
  8. Failure to communicate a vision: part of leadership is creating a vision but also insuring everyone knows about it, that it is clear, and the methods of achieving it are established.
  9. Ignoring relationship building: a complex but easy task that is often ignored.
  10. Lack of social skills: if you cannot get along with people, “connect” with them, and are capable of getting along, you will fail.

The list of those things that can make a leader fail are endless and will follow even the best leader.  My list is only those things I believe to be both common and result in big failures.  To be the very best leader, be sure to avoid these 10 reasons for failure.

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Note: here are some of my other posts on leadership failure: https://www.theleadermaker.com/backlash-colleges-leadership-failure/

  1. Backlash Against Colleges & Leadership Failure: https://www.theleadermaker.com/leadership-failure-irish-potato-famine/
  2. Leadership Failure: The Irish Potato Famine: https://www.theleadermaker.com/military-blunders-leadership-failure/
  3. Military Blunders: Leadership Failure or Not?: https://www.theleadermaker.com/military-blunders-leadership-failure/
  4. Greatest Leadership Failure in History: https://www.theleadermaker.com/greatest-leadership-failure-in-history/
  5. New York City Mayor: Leadership Failure: https://www.theleadermaker.com/new-york-city-mayor-leadership-failure/


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

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