[December 30, 2016] Once upon a time I had a commanding officer that was unreliable; lazy, indecisive, uncommitted, and on top of that a notorious braggart. He made my life, and those around him, miserable and frustrating. In retrospect, alcohol played a big role but like many other leaders he was not reliable as elemental leadership requires of us all.
Leadership means many things but if a leader is incapable of being reliable in the most fundamental aspects of leadership, then everyone will suffer. Leaders do fail. But it is not failure that is the biggest problem leaders face on a daily basis. Good leadership means to always stand by your followers, meet mission requirements, make good decisions, and above all have heart in the game.
Unreliable leaders can be found anywhere and while each is different, there are some common trends among them. First, they lack commitment. They don’t have the passion (the heart in the game) to go the distance and hang tough when the going gets difficult. In military history lore, there are plenty examples of unreliable leaders who deserted their men during battle.
Second, leaders who cannot be relied upon don’t develop trust and confidence. Building and management of that trust ranks as one of the top factors to achieve and sustain high levels of organizational strength. Those unreliable leaders often have poor communication skills, build inflexible work cultures, have negative attitudes, and lack the basic moral courage to take on difficult problems.
Third, unreliable leaders don’t believe success is possible. This, in part, explains why those leaders may be great one day and undependable the next. They are most often hesitant to make a decision or take an action when things are not clear cut. Obstacles are especially problematic for a leader who doesn’t believe success is possible as they are more likely to use an obstacle as an excuse for their inaction or place blame on it when they fail.
And fourth, those leaders who are not reliable are known to never walk their talk. Action speaks louder than words and unreliable leaders don’t follow through. In my example, the leader was a known braggart; he would boast about what he “could do” and what he “had done.” But he was nowhere to be found when things got difficult or when standards required reinforcing.
Honest, firm, and fair leadership is what distinguishes the unreliable from the reliable leader. Those who are reliable are a joy to be around since they inspire us all to greater things.
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