There are three things that I have seen bring down more than one leader over the years. All leaders have flaws. All leaders have weaknesses. Not all flaws or weaknesses are fatal to leadership. These three, however, are always destructive.
1. Refusal to learn from others
Ever heard the expression, “some people just gotta learn the hard way”? Yeah, not such a good idea in leadership. In fact, it is just down right not smart to insist on learning everything based on personal experience.
I don’t have to eat a ghost pepper to know it is hot. I can learn from the experience of others who have. A whole light of pain can be avoided in life and leadership by learning from others.
For the leader, the refusal to learn from others will cause unnecessary pain, mistakes, heartache, and failure. This stubbornness will negatively affect the leader, the leader’s family, and the organization/group he/she is leading.
There is so much wisdom, knowledge, understanding, experience, and insight to be gained from others. Don’t just look for the gurus and big name authors to learn from either. There is much to learn from those right around you. Every person we come in contact with has a perspective that we don’t. It is truly possible to learn something from everyone.
I had a colleague once that was extremely intelligent. He had vast knowledge in many things, but especially in the areas of audio/visual technology. Yet, time and again, I would watch him ask questions of people about pieces of equipment or processes that he already knew how to use. He would keep asking questions until he found something he didn’t already know.
This man knew and lived one of the great secrets to leadership, never stop learning. As much as we can learn from others, the better. In fact, the more you can learn from the blood, sweat, and tears of others, the more you can accomplish. This is because you can build on their knowledge and experience instead of taking the time to attain those things on your own.
2. Not having integrity
Yes, character matters in leadership. A person without good strong character and integrity will never be a great leader no matter how much talent or ability they have.
There are so many things that will come against a leader to attempt to bring them down. So many opportunities to take advantage of the position; chances to abuse power and authority. A leader without integrity will eventually cause everything around them to crumble because they can’t handle the pressure.
The word “integrity” actually means strength, resolve.
A leader must be above reproach. Leaders need to be honest and trustworthy. They should follow through on what they say and finish what they start. People count on leaders, so a leader needs to be reliable.
Of course, integrity only really played out when the leader thinks no one is watching. What we do, how we think when it seems we could get away with anything is where the depth of our integrity and character are shown. It’s not what happens under the bright lights that is most important, it is what takes place behind the scenes, in the shadows.
There is such an abundance of examples of leaders and organizations that have failed due to a breakdown in integrity with the leader. It often starts small, cutting corners here and there, little white lies, fudging numbers a bit, stretching the truth, and so on. These “small” things really aren’t so small after all.
This may be the big one.
Countless leaders have been derailed by their own insecurity. I could say pride also because they are two sides of the same coin. The same results occur in the one too filled with pride to ask for help and the one too insecure to let any one be involved.
Insecurity in a leader will cause them to push others away and keep them at arms length. It will cause an air of uncertainty and fear in others as the leaders continually has the need to put people in their place and remind them of the leader’s position.
Left unchecked, insecurity leads to paranoia, fear, isolation, and delusion.
Ironically, the very thing an insecure leader fears comes true because of their insecurity. They end up alone and having failed in their leadership. By trying to demand loyalty, the insecure leader is actually creating an environment of disloyalty. By continually exerting one’s authority in leadership out of insecurity, the leader plants seeds of rebellion.
What the insecure leader is craving (loyalty, affirmation, validation, success, value) can be reached best by confidently affirming, valuing, raising up, and cheering on those around him/her. The most confident leaders are the ones who achieve the most. They are also the ones who give more of their leadership away to others to grow.
Great leaders are constantly learning, have strong integrity, and lead with confidence.