Why do leaders and other celebrities risk everything they have worked so hard to build – fortune, job, reputation, family, and in some cases their freedom – for a reckless action? We now have a group of CEOs embroiled in sex scandals (e.g., Harry Stonechipher, Mark Hurd, Brian Dunn and many more) and illegal activities (e.g., Ken Lay, Dennis Koslowski, and many more). When leaders who appear to have everything decide to risk it all for a poor decision and get caught, it can be quite difficult to understand why they choose to let it happen.
There are habits and derailing behaviors that develop for some leaders which cause them to go into a downhill spin and lose everything. Research has shown that when power is abused, these derailing behaviors take a toll on them. Sydney Finkelstein outlined five poor habits of leaders who derail that include the following: a deep belief they can control the company, believing they have all the answers, and being overly concerned with their image.
In my recent Leadership Excellence article, I discuss why these derailing behaviors happen and what organizations can do to prevent executive failure and these costly behaviors from happening. I hope you find the information key to helping those leaders who might be exhibiting these derailing behaviors in your organization.
This age-old question still has a lot of people who go to one side or the other of the argument. There are still some managers who believe leaders are born no matter what and that trying to select and develop for leadership is futile. I have always been of the belief that it is a little bit of both to become a leader. There are some traits that great leaders possess including – intelligence, sociability, confidence, ambition, emotional stability – and they must be given the benefit of experience to help develop their leadership effectiveness. For example, Mark Zuckerberg has many of these traits and is the CEO of Facebook as his first major leadership challenge. His failures are very public and he just hasn’t had the benefit of experience to help him be successful in spite of his innate abilities. There are many things companies can do to help identify and develop their leaders for the future and ensure they have a continual pipeline of candidates for senior roles – ready at the right time and place when needed to fill leadership vacancies. These are presented in my recent article in CEO Online “Are Leaders Born or Made?”
After working with leaders over many years I have found that there are five clusters of traits which set true leaders apart. These five clusters are:
People who aren’t intelligent can’t provide a compelling vision. If they lack self-confidence, they’re afraid to try. People who aren’t results-oriented can get passed over, and those lacking integrity often self-destruct. Social skills are key to connect with people and rally support. There are proven methods to develop those leaders with these traits to help build the pipeline of talent in organizations. These are presented in my recent article in Leadership Excellence magazine (page 18) titled “True Leaders – They Possess Five Traits” and it also includes the seven best practices for developing and retaining great leaders.
If you haven’t started already, there are some steps you can take to better understand if you have any blind spots and increase your self-awareness. Most leaders do not take the time to solicit feedback on their effectiveness from their stakeholders and as a result, operate without management perceptions. Use these 4 steps to create your action plan for success.
1. Solicit feedback and suggestions from two peers and two direct reports.
If you have areas you are interested in developing, ask for suggestions to help you. For example, suppose Sally wanted to improve her performance management of her team. She can approach a peer, Tim, and ask him to provide her with specific actions she could take in the next 30 days to help her improve her performance management of her team members. If you don’t ask, your peers and team won’t offer advice. If you ask them, they will help!
2. Develop 2-3 goals and actions you would want to take to increase your leadership effectiveness.
Use the SMART method of goal setting for development goals. For example, suppose Sally wanted to, “Build a highly effective team,” as one of her 2013 goals. Here is how she could create her action plans:
Development Goal – Build a Highly Effective Team
3. Seek feedback and suggestions quarterly about your leadership impact and opportunities to improve your performance.
Revise the development plan as required.
4. Identify and attend any company-sponsored or external training that is relevant to your on-going development.
If the company provides coaching, seek out an executive coach to assist in your development. Seek challenging assignments and volunteer for special projects and task forces which provide you exposure to different parts of the business and senior leaders.
By taking these steps you can improve your leadership impact and performance and help build your career potential. As long as you subscribe to the fact that development is self-motivated you will do well throughout your career.
This year should be very interesting for leaders and executives at all levels and from what we have seen recently with Congress, continued uncertainty for the foreseeable future. As leaders, what should you be thinking about for your success in 2013?
1. Work-life balance will continue to be “out of balance” now that companies have settled into a new normal of doing more with less. The hours and demands continue to rise making it challenging for the Gen X Leaders who are trying to manage family and work commitments. As long as Boomers occupy the most senior positions in companies, the value of working longer hours will be pervasive throughout most organization. This “extra” stressor is a big one on top of job demands, so learning to deal effectively with this challenge will go a long way to a satisfying and productive 2013. Consider “mini-vacations” which are 3-4 day weekends taken more frequently. Try to leave the Blackberry or iPhone behind.
2. Leaving a legacy is a new concept for many leaders to contemplate within the business setting. Often, when I ask clients what their legacy will be after they are done working, they usually respond that they hadn’t really thought much about it. In some ways, Vision is what some Boomers should consider as they contemplate retirement in the coming years. (I know the research shows that Boomers are working longer.) Try and answer this question: When you are no longer working at the company, what do you want people to say about you as a leader and individual? I hear answers like, “He worked hard and made us a lot of profits,” to “He was a thoughtful and caring leader who helped prepare the new generation of leaders for our company.” Both statements are correct, it’s just that they will dictate different leadership actions nearing the retirement year.
3. Develop your personal brand with a great deal of attention to social media. Make sure that you have all your social media channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.,) aligned with who you want to portray to friends and colleagues. Most employers look at all of the social media sites to check out their existing and prospective employees. As a busy consultant, I struggle to keep everything up to date with the latest messaging, accomplishments, thought leadership, etc. Many leaders inside companies have not taken the time to create their personal branding messages which is accessible by internal and external stakeholders.
4. Continuation of self-development as the primary source for skill building. It’s not a new trend and will continue even more in 2013. Leaders who take the initiative and seek out programs, opportunities to volunteer for special projects and assignments, read books, attend professional conferences, will be noticed and able to improve their value within the organization. If you are struggling with #1, the thought of this trend is a bit disconcerting since you have no time to devote to your personal development, so it is often neglected. As a start, block out 2 hours per week to focus on furthering your development. Ask your company if they provide coaching for their leaders, or better yet, ask your manager to help you get on a task force or project team that will expose you to new areas and people in the company.
These are some of the bigger trends that I see for leaders that I have been working with over the past decade.