Leadership failure rarely happens overnight.

Many leadership problems show early “symptoms,” and it’s easier to get leadership back on track when these are recognized promptly.

Also rare is the leader who experiences no problems whatsoever. Many major leadership problems start out as smaller, far more manageable problems that, when recognized early, offer great opportunities for improvement.

Learn how to recognize leadership problems in their early stages, and you can help your leaders get back on track before major problems develop. This, of course, requires that you keep a finger on the pulse of leadership in your organization – something that helps you with your own leadership as well.

Here are some signs that leadership may be falling short, so you can address these issues before they cause lasting damage.

Watch for Informational Silos and Interdepartmental Conflict

Conflicts between departments, which often manifest as hoarding of information and lack of candid communication, are signs of leadership at the top that is falling short. Those at the top of the organizational chart must work to create healthy teams that understand other teams’ roles and needs and that practice accountability. Employees are willing to work hard for leaders who share information, because they trust them more than leaders who withhold and hoard information.

Recognize Micromanaging Early

Micromanaging indicates a lack of trust, an excessive need for control, or both. It drives top performers to seek out other opportunities and causes typical performers to stop giving discretionary effort to their tasks. Teaching leaders and team members to set goals and recognize what success looks like can help leaders let go enough to empower team members to “own” responsibilities and give them their best efforts. Micromanaging limits creativity and drains meaning and purpose from people’s jobs.

Don’t Let “Me” Outweigh “Us”

The best leaders aren’t interested in standing in the spotlight. They’re interested in getting results and letting them speak for themselves. Leaders who take credit for team accomplishments deflate team spirit and make people want to give only the amount of effort necessary. Sharing credit and recognizing great work are skills that many executive coaching clients need help with. But they inevitably find that sharing credit for successes makes them more successful as leaders.

Leaders who hog the credit for accomplishments tend to alienate their teams.

Root Out Complacency

Complacency in leadership may show up in different ways. Complacent leaders may become more “invisible” to their teams. They may become too inwardly focused. Or they may become more cynical. Complacent leaders tend not to communicate well, which means that teams may not know of problems until they become difficult to manage. Rooting out complacency requires finding out what’s causing it. Is it a loss of confidence? Lack of necessary tools for improvement? A heart-to-heart talk is often necessary to find out what’s behind a leader’s complacency so it can be addressed.

When engineers have to re-rail an ordinary derailed train car, they use steel wedges and hydraulic jacks. It’s work, but it’s relatively straightforward. But when trains go too far off the track, engineers have to bring in multiple cranes to lift the cars up and get them back on track. Similarly, leaders who go off-track can get back on track more easily if they’re helped promptly.

Leadership coaching, for the most part, isn’t for leaders who have completely failed in their mission. It is for leaders with outstanding potential that they want to fulfill. But leadership coaching is about humans, and all humans are imperfect. Leaders who demonstrate leadership problems can be good candidates for coaching.

Likewise, the executives who lead the leaders may be outstanding candidates for executive coaching. The most successful leaders keep a finger on the pulse of their organization, and that means being able to see leadership problems in their earliest stages. Leadership and executive coaching can help leaders develop their skills for recognizing and correcting leadership derailment, so the entire organization remains aligned with its goals.


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