Other than full-scale mutiny, few things are worse for an organization than bad leadership. A wrong-headed or tone-deaf CEO can cause problems that cascade throughout a business, causing lasting or permanent damage. As with most organizational sicknesses, with poor leadership, prevention is better than a cure. The best way to prevent a megalomaniac or otherwise ineffective leader from wreaking havoc is to keep that person out of top leadership positions in the first place. Unfortunately, there are times when a leader doesn’t show their true colors until they’re in the corner office, and the problem is harder to solve when that happens. Here is what decision-makers should know in regard to recognizing signs of poor leadership and addressing them before they can cause problems.

Bad Leadership Blame

Bad leadership blames, shirks responsibility, and ruins the morale of an organization or team.

Consequences of Unchecked Poor Leadership

Bad leadership leads to bad team performance. This may not be evident at first, because great teams can – for a while at least – make up for terrible leadership. Eventually, however, even the best team grows weary of doing their best under bad leadership and performance suffers. Employee development also suffers under bad leadership. Bad leadership at the top has the effect of putting a lot of lower-level leadership potential on ice. It’s hard to gain the motivation for self-improvement when morale is squashed, and the work environment is negative. Toxic corporate culture can spread more rapidly than many people think. Finally, there is the hard dollar cost associated with removing a toxic leader. Turnover is expensive wherever it occurs in the organization chart, but changes of top leadership are especially expensive. Not only are such changes expensive in terms of dollars, they’re expensive in terms of stalled potential and organizational recovery time under a new (and presumably more effective) leader.

What’s Behind Most Cases of Bad Leadership

Bad leadership is hardly ever the result of installing someone who is downright evil in a position of power where they can exercise their nefarious tendencies without limit. For the most part, poor leadership is about immaturity. Effective leaders must be selfless, hard-working, and clear-headed, and immaturity undermines all these character traits. Business challenges can be difficult for mature and effective leaders too. But the mature leader knows which risks are worth taking, when long hours are necessary, and when they have to make difficult decisions. Immaturity is almost always behind leadership that won’t take risks (or that takes unreasonable risks), leadership that is unwilling to put in the hard work necessary to overcome challenges, and leadership that avoids making difficult decisions.

How Executive Coaching Can Prevent Leadership Problems

When an organization names a new C-level executive, there are no guarantees that the new leader will be effective. There is always some level of risk in the appointment of a new top-level leader. However, risks – and in particular, risks related to immaturity – can be mitigated through the use of executive and leadership coaching with people newly appointed to top leadership positions. This is one reason so many organizations invest in executive and leadership coaching when they hire a new CEO or promote a manager into top leadership. This isn’t beginner’s coaching but coaching that meets a leader where they are and makes an actionable plan for measurable leadership development.

Effective executive coaching begins with extensive assessment of the client’s character strengths, areas of weaknesses, and how the client is perceived by others in the organization. Only then can the coach and client together create a custom-tailored plan for leadership development. The coach-client relationship creates effective fortification against letting immaturity take over, because it gets results both short- and long-term, motivating the client toward continual improvement.

My years of experience as an executive leadership coach have taught me that today’s leaders have no choice but to be diligent and passionate about self-development and generating loyalty among the people they have been chosen to lead. It requires attention to inner-core character and outer-core behaviors, as well as attention to goals and the steps that lead to accomplishment of them. Executive coaching can prevent many of the problems of poor leadership and is a worthwhile investment that pays off.

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