Flawed leaders vs. enlightened cultures.

by Gil Yehuda on May 27, 2009

in Enterprise 2.0

Let me share and comment on an excerpt from the just published  Harvard Business Review article: Ten Fatal Flaws That Derail Leaders. Authors Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman examined the performance reviews of business leaders who were either fired or considered ineffective.  They found many common characteristics, including these:

  1. Lack of energy and enthusiasm. They “suck all the energy out of any room.” They rarely volunteer and see new initiatives as a burden.
  2. Accept their own mediocre performance. Their mantra is “under-promise and over deliver.”
  3. Lack clear vision and direction. They believe execution is their only job. “Like a hiker who sticks close to the trail, they’re fine until they come to a fork,” say Zenger and Folkman.
  4. Have poor judgment. They make decisions not in the best interests of the organization.
  5. Don’t collaborate. “They avoid peers, act independently, and view other leaders as competitors,” say the authors. As a result, their colleagues don’t help them succeed.
  6. Don’t walk the talk. Their colleagues see them as lacking integrity, setting standards and then violating them.
  7. Resist new ideas. The reject suggestions from subordinates and peers and good ideas aren’t implemented.
  8. Don’t learn from mistakes. They hide their errors and brood about them, failing to use setbacks as opportunities for growth.
  9. Lack interpersonal skills. They’re abrasive or aloof and stingy with praise.
  10. Fail to develop others. “They focus on themselves to the exclusion of developing subordinates, causing individuals and teams to disengage,” say Zenger and Folkman.

Perhaps the most interesting finding was the eleventh of the ten, that many ineffective leaders are unaware of their flaws.  When asked to rate themselves, they score themselves higher than the people they work with rank them.  In other words, they think they are behaving effectively.  And thus they see no reason to “fix” what’s not broken.

Most working people have encountered leaders that fit at least some of the descriptions above.  So reading this list should resonate with you.  I even started to think of names.

Does Enterprise 2.0 offer any solution to the problem of ineffective leaders?  My first reaction was “no”.  But maybe I’m not thinking hard enough.  People develop all sorts of learned behaviors and habits based on environmental feedback. What if you were able to foster a successful, effective culture with values that counteract against these flaws? Can it be accomplished despite the toxic leadership? Let’s say it can.  Would it highlight, or even help correct the leadership issues?

E2.0 is about culture and behaviors – right?  But it’s also not a silver bullet.  What have you found in your successful implementations?  Can toxic leaders survive in an enlightened environment?  Or are they so potent that you cannot succeed with them in the environment at all?

The implications of this question are huge. Think about it.

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Becoming an Open Leader. | Gil Yehuda's Enterprise 2.0 Blog
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