Inspired to fail – inspired to succeed

He was defeated for the legislature in ’32. Failed in business in ’33. His sweetheart died in ’35. Had a nervous breakdown in ’36. Defeated in election in ’38. Defeated in nomination for Congress in ’43. Lost renomination for Congress in ’48. Defeated for Senate in ’55. Defeated for Vice President in ’56. Again defeated for US Senate in ’58. Elected President in ’60.

This man was Abraham Lincoln.

A child prodigy shunned by aristocracy. Lived much of his adult life in poverty. Died in his 30s. Buried in a paupers grave.

This man was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Fired by bosses after other workers refused to work with him. Homeless and impoverished throughout his youth. Survived as a poster artist. Rejected from an Arts Academy. Initially rejected as unfit by the army. Never rose above Corporal. Became the leader of his country.

This man was Adolf Hitler.

These are part of the long chain of other inspiring failures. It seems to be really successful, one has to really fail, badly, deeply.

How does failure happen?

Sometimes failure is a result of bad leadership. According to Denny’s “Motivate to Win,” reasons of leadership failures are:

  1. Inability to organize details
  2. Unwillingness to do what they would ask another to do
  3. Expectation of pay for what they know instead of what they do
  4. Fear of competition from others
  5. Lack of creative thinking in setting goals and creating plans
  6. The “I” syndrome
  7. Over-indulgence, destroying endurance and vitality
  8. Disloyalty to colleagues
  9. Leading by instilling fear instead of encouragement
  10. Emphasis of title instead of knowledge and expertise
  11. Failure to face negative reality
  12. Being ultra-positive

Sometimes, it is the change, with intention of improvement, that causes failure, as Kotter elaborates in his “Leading Change, change will not succeed if the leader is:

  1. Allowing to much complacency
  2. Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition
  3. Underestimating the power of vision
  4. Undercommunicating the vision
  5. Permitting obstacles to block the vision
  6. Failing to create short-term wins
  7. Declaring victory too soon
  8. Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture

The Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership

Here is a piece about leadership “sins” as categorized by management/leadership guru Drucker.

The Sin of Pride

The Sin of Pride is almost always considered the most serious of the Seven Deadly Sins. Yet it seems so innocuous. My wife calls it “being full of oneself.” I believe feeling proud of what a leader has accomplished or is accomplishing is perfectly acceptable. The problem comes when one feels this pride to the extent that the leader believes himself so special that ordinary rules no longer apply to him. That’s where many leaders go awry.

The Sin of Lust

I once heard a retired leader of a large organization of almost a million members speak about his challenges of leading this organization. “One of the biggest problems,” he said, “was newly promoted senior executives. I may be exaggerating a little,” he continued. “But it seemed almost that as soon as we promoted a man to be a senior executive, he suddenly decided that he was God’s gift to women.”

This individual spoke at a time when almost all senior executives had been male. However, I do not think that one would find much difference with female executives. There is unfortunately a feeling among some leaders that they have “arrived” and are “entitled” to additional sexual gratification as some sort of fringe leadership benefit. In one online survey done by the White Stone Journal, The Deadly Sin of Lust was the most frequent of the Seven Deadly Sins self-reported as “my biggest failing.” So this sin is hardly uncommon. However, it can have very unfortunate consequences. In any workplace it creates jealousies, feelings of favoritism, a lack of trust, damages people and relationships and more.

The Sin of Greed

The Sin of Greed is a sin of excess. It frequently starts with power. Leaders have power, and unfortunately having power has a tendency to lead to corruption if the leader isn’t careful. This may start with the acceptance of small favors and grow into vacations, loans and worse. How do these things happen? A leader sees others with more than he has. Questions may be raised in the leader’s mind as to why others have so much more, yet (in the leader’s mind) are far less deserving. Maybe a small bribe is accepted. It may not even be seen as a bribe, just a favor between friends. If the leader allows himself to be seduced in this way, greed can take over. Unlike the movie, greed is never “good,” even as a motivator, and though Drucker analyzed and approved many motivations, greed was not one.

The Sin of Sloth

The Sin of Sloth has to do with an unwillingness to act. Sometimes this is due to laziness. More often it is an unwillingness to take on work that the leader considers is beneath him. I have many times seen leaders watching critical work that must be completed and for which they were also qualified to do. Yet they stood around “supervising” when they could have given real help to their subordinates and to the mission that they were responsible for accomplishing. In too many cases, good men and women fail because their leader failed to help or take action in other ways. Make no mistake about it, The Sin of Sloth leads to disaster. Leaders must be proactive and they must take action.

The Sin of Wrath

This sin has to do with uncontrolled anger. There is a time for anger in leadership when it serves a definite and useful purpose. As Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson taught us, you can take one minute to make a correction and include the words “I’m angry” and then tell the recipient why. Moreover, anger does have a useful function in that it can mobilize psychological and physical resources to do something about a problem.

However, leaders need to avoid repeated and uncontrolled anger because it can have negative impacts on their leadership. It can destroy morale, does not guarantee a lasting effect in correcting problems, and in effect requires surrendering anger as a tool for the times when expressing it is really useful and appropriate. Moreover when in an angry state, anger causes the leader a loss of self-monitoring capacity and the ability to observe objectively.

Drucker taught leaders to analyze their environment and to determine what actions that have already occurred mean for the future before taking action. Using anger as a single response to all leadership challenges prevents us from doing this analysis. It prevents the leader from making good decisions and may prevent the leader from taking the correct action appropriate to the situation. Actions taken during uncontrolled action are frequently in error and require additional work to undue the consequences of these mistakes later.

The Sin of Envy

With the Sin of Envy, the leader is envious of what is enjoyed by someone else. This may or may not be incorporated with greed. The sin usually leads the leader to make decisions and to take actions that will be to the disadvantage to the object of his envy. So a leader who falls victim to this sin may deny an earned promotion to a qualified subordinate, attempt to destroy another’s reputation or in other ways attempt to make himself feel better by lowering the situation of another. This is obviously harmful to this other individual, hurts the organization and is probably harmful to the leader who perpetrates these actions.

The Sin of Gluttony

Most think of food or drink with this sin, but for the leader it has a far more ominous connotation. The Sin of Gluttony was the one that most frustrated Drucker. Expensive food or drink is scarce. Therefore excessive consumption can be seen as a sign of status. But gluttony need not apply only to food.

Drucker knew how hard managers had to work to do their jobs as they needed to be done, and he had defended high salaries for top managers early in his career. However skyrocketing executive salaries caused him to drastically alter his opinion. Drucker said and wrote that executive salaries at the top had become clearly excessive and that the ratios of the compensation of American top managers to the lowest paid workers were the highest in the world. Moreover, this difference wasn’t slight, but differed by magnitudes. He said this was morally wrong. The ratio of average CEO compensation in the United States to average pay of a non-management employee in the United States hit a high in 2001 of 525 to 1. Drucker recommended a ratio of no more than 20 to 1.

The Sin of Gluttony was to be avoided for good leadership. Interestingly, Drucker drew a parallel of high executive salaries with the demands of unions for more and more benefits without an increase in productivity. He said we would pay a terrible price for these examples of gluttony and that “it is never pleasant to watch hogs gorge.” As I write these words, we are paying this price.

There are things that a leader must do, and things he must not. The Seven Deadly Sins are those that Drucker maintained that leaders must not do.

Does your behavior damage trust?

In normal times as well as hard times, trust is the foundation of any collective human endeavor, be it in business, in politics or in any other social or group activity. “Does your behavior damage trust?” is a key question and following are 25 behavioral patterns that contribute to creating mistrust within your team/group.

  1. You fail to keep your promises, agreements and commitments.
  2. You serve your self first and others only when it is convenient.
  3. You micromanage and resist delegating.
  4. You demonstrate an inconsistency between what you say and how you behave.
  5. You fail to share critical information with your colleagues.
  6. You choose to not tell the truth.
  7. You resort to blaming and scapegoating others rather than own your mistakes.
  8. You judge, and criticize rather than offer constructive feedback.
  9. You betray confidences, gossip and talk about others behind their backs.
  10. You choose to not allow others to contribute or make decisions.
  11. You downplay others’ talents, knowledge and skills.
  12. You refuse to support others with their professional development.
  13. You resist creating shared values, expectations and intentions in favor of your own agenda; you refuse to compromise and foster win-lose arguments.
  14. You refuse to be held accountable by your colleagues.
  15. You resist discussing your personal life, allowing your vulnerability, disclosing your weaknesses and admitting your relationship challenges.
  16. You rationalize sarcasm, put-down humor and off-putting remarks as “good for the group”.
  17. You fail to admit you need support and don’t ask colleagues for help.
  18. You take others’ suggestions and critiques as personal attacks.
  19. You fail to speak up in team meetings and avoid contributing constructively.
  20. You refuse to consider the idea of constructive conflict and avoid conflict at all costs.
  21. You consistently hijack team meetings and move them off topic.
  22. You refuse to follow through on decisions agreed upon at team meetings.
  23. You secretly engage in back-door negotiations with other team members to create your own alliances.
  24. You refuse to give others the benefit of the doubt and prefer to judge them without asking them to explain their position or actions.
  25. You refuse to apologize for mistakes, misunderstandings and inappropriate behavior and dig your heels in to defend yourself and protect your reputation.

This list is especially relevant for leaders and those appointed to leadership positions for trust is the foundation of successful leadership.