Why Do Leaders Fail? – Featured On The Straits Times (15 Nov 2016)

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1Can everyone become a leader? If we define leadership as a title, not everyone can become a leadership because positions at the top of the chain are scarce. But if we can regard leadership as a journey of growth rather than a title, it would have a more powerful meaning.

Here are some reasons why leaders can fail:

1. THEY SEE PEOPLE AS TASKS.

Conventional leadership equals to position and authority. This is why leadership is often over-glorified because we focus on the title and power that comes with it. Position and authority may be good for getting a task done, but leadership is more than that.

How then can we ensure that future leaders are leaders of people, and not of tasks or just key performance indicator (KPI)?  If we can build human potential, we directly build performance and results. Most leaders do not see this because they prefer the easy way out of looking at KPI.

2. THEY DON’T BUILD PEOPLE.

Some leaders tell me they are always fire-fighting and have no time to build people. Great leaders know a strong team would enable them to put out the fire so that they can focus on the more important things.

Most of the time, leaders are promoted based on their competency at work, but their people building skill. Those who have personally experienced how their leaders led them are likely to do the same for their people.

3. THEY DO NOT HELP THEIR PEOPLE FIND THEIR WAY.

Leaders who fail are those who impose their value on others. Just because their method of success, they assume it will work for others. They use a one size fit all mantra to manage their people, which is a narrow vision of success.

Great leaders do not let their people knock their way around, but rather facilitate their success by helping them to find their way. This means the leader provides opportunities for their people to learn as quickly as possible, through intentional mistakes.

4. THEY EXPECT THEIR PEOPLE TO COME TO THEM

Leaders who fail do not touch base with the ground. People look for leaders who are approachable, not leaders who lock themselves up in their cubicle. Leaders who wait for their team to come to them are likely to have the illusion that everything is okay when it is not.

There was a story about one military leader who expected all his generals on the ground to know what went on at the battlefront by being close to the soldiers at the front line. A high-ranking general was removed from his position when discovered that he was not on the battlefront and did not know that was taking place there.

Leaders who prefer to sit back will never know the truth, but true leaders set themselves apart by at the front and always on the pulse of the matters. They make themselves available to meet with their people.

While there are leaders who fail, many leaders succeed because they are always at the front and do not their people for granted.