June 9, 2023 • By Dennis Beaver

Dennis Beaver“My wife, ‘Emily,’ was recently named to run an important division in her employer’s auto accessories company. She is one of the most capable people I know for any job, but is terrified of these new responsibilities and has expressed a great deal of self-doubt, which is really out of character.

“Do you know of a resource for someone who suddenly finds themselves in a leadership role? I know that one day she will become CEO, but right now my wife is a trembling puppy. She is a very kind person and worried if that aspect of her personality will interfere with this new position. Emily responds well when shown what not to do. Thanks, ‘Bob.’”

Kindness is the Key to Effective Leadership

In my recent chat with the authors of just published Real-Time Leadership – Find Your Winning Moves When the Stakes are High — David Noble and Carol Kaufman underscore an important and sometimes overlooked element of effective leadership: kindness.

The authors distill their years in executive coaching and academe into a highly accessible read that provides a “how to” approach for the challenges of leadership.

But not only for executives — Real-Time Leadership illuminates a dark room where family members often find themselves where one has received an important promotion or assignment.

I asked them for a by-the-numbers list of things that can lead to a leader failing. Here is David’s formula:

(1) Fail to Connect with Your Team

Consequences: When stepping into a new job, a guaranteed method of failure is not connecting with your team, just coming in and assuming that you know everything and there is no need to understand your people, their strengths, wants and needs and what the business is all about.

(2) Fail to Read the Culture

Consequences: The culture might be a highly supportive, collaborative environment, but if you come in as a leader who is going to be directive all the time — micro-managing — this will prove to be highly destructive.

(3) Do nothing for months. Show no accomplishments. No results.

Consequences: You will have nothing to show your ability or competence

(4) Failure to anchor your day-to-day work to a longer term strategy.

Consequences: If you do not have a long-term game plan, you are likely to fail.

A theme in Real-Time Leadership the authors stress is being “mindfully alert — to have insight into your own goals, those of your people, and not be only concerned with what you want for yourself.

Carol said a leader will fail by:

(A) Prejudging and not taking the time to analyze alternatives.

(B) Focusing exclusively on his/her own development.

(C) Limiting engagement to only those people who are perceived as supporting you.

“These three attitudes are horribly destructive,” she underscores, and adds, “The other dimensions of leadership failure include not noticing or caring about what other people need from you and just ‘going with your reflexes, not thinking the decision over and just acting.’”

Fail to Allow Psychological Safety

The authors maintain that, “From the smallest mom and pop neighbor market to Fortune 500 corporations, people need to feel psychologically safe to speak up and tell the truth.

The leader who is destined to fail thinks:

– I will make it hard for employees to raise a tough issue to me or to my team.

– I am going to undermine you every chance I get as a team member.

– I am going to punish you if you take a risk that doesn’t work out.

“If you do all these things,” David points out, “the consequence is that people will not tell you the truth or what is on their minds. So, if you are not seeing anything – not using that information – how can you possibly win?”

Never Doubt Yourself – Fail to Validate Your Position

“Dennis,” Carol observes, “you would be surprised at the people in positions of leadership who simply believe whatever they think is correct – fail to have their views validated – and steer their company in the wrong direction. They operate on intuition, are rigid, and believe whatever it is that comes into their minds.”

“And,” David notes, “There are situations where you want something so much as a leader that you just don’t see the reality – you know the numbers don’t work, but you still go ahead and do it because you want it so bad. That’s one of the consequences for not seeing reality for what it is. They refuse to have a healthy dose of self-doubt, or ask themselves, ‘How might I be wrong?’”

Top Personality Issues that Can Derail a Leader

The authors listed several personality issues that can derail leadership:

(1) Be impulsive. Get excited about things and then become easily disappointed, frustrated and pull out so you are not consistent. People will be unable to predict your behavior and will not believe you.

(2) Be skeptical of everything your team is telling you. Do not trust or believe anything they say. ‘What’s in it for them? What’s their agenda?” Push back on everything.

(3) Fear being wrong and therefore refuse to make a decision.

(4) Take undue risks. “I’ll take that! I’ll pull it off!” “It will work out!” Have all the answers all the time. “I can never make a mistake. I’m a genius.”

Real-Time Leadership has the needs of people just like my reader’s wife in mind. They have provided a road map to that place called success.