Top 10 Reasons Why Leaders Fail

Written By: Dan Schawbel
August 21, 2013
4 min read

Not everyone is meant to be a leader, but for those of you who are already leaders or aspiring to be leaders, there are a lot of lessons you can learn. Today, I’ve written ten reasons why leaders fail. It’s a collection of issues that leaders tend to have, especially in their first few years in those roles. It’s easy to get caught up in the act of leadership because you gain power, confidence and control, all of which can be your undoing. Here are 10 things that will get in the way of your success and hurt your team:

1. Leaders become selfish.

Leaders who have responsibilities seem to forget that they are there to support their team instead of themselves. They become power hungry and seek control instead of giving advice, mentoring and ensuring that the team benefits from their leadership.

2. They stop navigating the team.

When a leader is satisfied with the current state of the company and group, they stop directing people forward. Leaders need to have clear visions and goals to make sure that everyone is constantly delivering high quality results and that the overall company is benefiting. Leaders have to set expectations, keep track of everyone’s progress and hold themselves accountable.

3. Leaders become greedy.

Good leaders are those who can delegate tasks and make sure that everyone on their team is learning, growing and is being challenged. When leaders start to do the work that they should be passing down to their employees, they end up hurting themselves. They become stressed out because they are overloaded with work and their employees get bored and want to leave.

4. They get arrogant.

Even the best leaders think they know everything and it becomes their downfall. Leaders need to be continuous learners if they want to keep up with the challenging demands of today’s economy. Your employees and the people you meet outside of the office can really help you make better decisions and you should listen to them. If you ignore what other people say, it’s going to make your job harder because people may oppose it and you might be left stranded.

5. They focus too much on politics.

Leaders have to play politics all the time at the office. They have to do the right thing, at the right time and make the right allies without angering too many people. This tends to get in the way of productivity and makes them lose focus. Leaders should instead focus on doing excellent work and managing their team.

6. They don’t give enough criticism.

It’s very easy for leaders to try and please everyone and to befriend co-workers but that’s not always effective. You have to take a step back and look at the weaknesses of your team and talk to them about what they can improve. If all you do is compliment everyone, then you are doing them a disservice. At the same time, you should accept criticism from them. Some of your leadership tactics might not be best for the group and you need to know that.

7. Leaders refuse to adapt.

You will always have to change how you lead based on how your work and company are changing. If your company is headed in a new direction, or if you have new team members, you’re going to want to adapt your leadership style to that new environment. If you fail to do that, then it’s going to be hard to align your group to what the company is doing.

8. They don’t understand self-leadership.

You have to know yourself, control yourself and communicate your core values, expectations and beliefs. You need to understand your strengths, weaknesses and goals in order to be able to give your best self to your team and to have fulfillment.

9. They are too reactive.

Leaders need to be proactive, not just reactive. If you find yourself spending all of your time trying to put out fires, then you aren’t using your time effectively. Proactive leaders have an influence on the future and form the right alliances to advance their causes. Of course you should make sure your group is getting all the answers and resources they need, but don’t ignore the future.

10. Leaders don’t communicate well.

If you want to lead a team, you’re going to have to constantly communicate with them and make sure they are all in the know. You can use Skype, instant messaging, email and team meetings in order to get your message to them, but the important part is that it gets there. If you don’t communicate effectively, people won’t know what to do next or where the group is heading.

Written By: Dan Schawbel
Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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