Lessons Learned from the Failures of Leaders

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / March 24, 2022
Leaders fail for several reasons, including their intelligence, character, and topic knowledge. Maybe we should discuss them in matrices.

Leaders fail for several reasons, including their intelligence, character, and topic knowledge. Maybe we should discuss them in matrices.

The failures of leaders get a lot of attention, and that’s completely appropriate. Many don’t seem to know how to sustain their own company.

But there’s also a cultural element. Does your style mesh with the currents? The world is packed with elephants. Maybe we should discuss them, if only with matrices.

It’s matrix time.

Recently, in Amazon, one expert found over 160,000 management and leadership books. That led to 2,980,000,000 hits on “Leadership Books.” How can there be so much fresh “wisdom” on leadership and management unless everything changes every week?

Perhaps we have no notion of leadership or how to cultivate it. The same old concerns about leadership, management, and people may explain this. Individuals like to work with lovely people even if they don’t know much or generate much. Isn’t this how politicians get elected? How do movie actors become famous? Who becomes a CEO?

Tim Sanders’ book The Likeability Factor and Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo’s essay “Competent Jerks & Lovable Fools” imply individuals prefer working with somebody they like.

Even nice idiots like working alongside likable idiots. Brilliant individuals appreciate working with other intelligent people. Everyone enjoys working with likable individuals, even inept ones. Thus, some likable politicians, performers, and CEOs can’t lead, but remedies to persistent issues seldom get implemented.

Many times, likability judgments — “I simply don’t like that guy!” – disregard brilliant answers to severe challenges.

The likability factor isn’t enough.

Business technology management and leadership are not immune to the likable phenomena.

How many are likable? How many were good? Dozens of “lovable fools.” How many were ignorant, nasty, and inept?

As we contemplate the failures of leaders, here’s a matrix to mull upon. Find the company technology executives and managers you’ve worked with.

What did you learn? Experts say the likability researchers were correct. Most managers and leaders we knew were green rather than red. But it was also found that most green individuals were lovely and foolish rather than friendly and knowledgeable. “Stupid?”

It may be an exaggeration, but there is no impression on technological executives’ rocket science (technology managers are usually smarter). Intelligent, objective and insightful leadership is unusual.

Keep what works.

Some experts say that technical specialists were nicer than brilliant. Or professionals whose main contribution was to attend meetings. They also tend to be unusually polite to those who promoted them…and the people who can encourage and bonus them again.

You’ve worked with professionals that were less than pleasant. However, because of their characteristics, they were frequently labeled as “difficult,” “obnoxious,” or just plain unlikable. This is one of the more common failures of leaders. You’re perfectly correct. And if you persevere, you’ll be absolutely dead right.

Some leaders didn’t listen. This may also explain the abundance of consultants. We need smarter, gentler, and occasionally meaner individuals on our teams. (There are no dumb consultants, right?)

In addition (while business culture will determine what is achievable), there are approaches to maximize this. Then:

  1. get rid of nasty, stupid people;
  2. find, retain, and reward intelligent, nice people as many as you can;
  3. restrict friendly, stupid people to roles that exploit their talents…how many glad-handers do you need?;
  4. work to exploit the contributions that clever – but sometimes nasty – people can make to your projects, programs, and strategies since they’re the ones we often overlook; and
  5. certainly, you must accurately identify the characters in the play.

These five stages seem to equate to leadership. (Another leadership book, maybe?)

Step 2: Career Management

The first step is to analyze your leadership world tolerance. Can you stand clever, cruel people?

Ask yourself, can you grin beside kind but ignorant people? However, can you fit it into the proper box?

The Matrix of Culture

Therefore, step two is a culturally healthy exercise. Who are you?

Simple metric…you’re political versus analytical culture and wiring. Is there a fit? If not, you will, as shown in the illustration, explode.

Therefore you may live happily ever after, as long as unpleasant, ignorant people don’t surround you.

The Matrix of Technology

How about tech? Now imagine the same CEOs and managers with varying degrees of technical expertise. Another matrix.

How deep or limited is your TQ (technology quotient)? But observe the relative relevance of each box. In the age of cloud computing, firms may exist with minimum operational, technological understanding.

Companies — and their leaders — cannot exist without understanding the strategic role technology plays in every firm. It is the final competitive edge. Consequently, companies must have strategic computing competence to compete in the evolving digital environment.

In the absence of digital plans, they will fail. However they slice it.

What city do you call home?

You can paint best/worst case-best possibilities if you take a step back. Similarly, the failures of leaders are best seen from 35,000 feet.

Likewise, it’s past time to leave behind a world of ignorant, spiteful, political, and uniformed CEOs and managers. After that, you’re good.

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Editorial Team