Characteristics of Leaders I’ve Seen Fired
I’m proud to say many leaders I work with get promoted, many going on to become SVPs, EVPs and C-suite executives. In contrast, I’ve also had a front row seat in observing the behaviors of less successful leaders, including those who eventually get fired. I’ve noticed several common downfalls of unsuccessful leaders:
- Lack of Strategic Perspective – For a leader, receiving the feedback that they are too tactical or aren’t strategic is about the worst insult they could get. A lack of strategic perspective can be a death knell for a leadership career.
- Lousy Interpersonal Skills – These leaders are sometimes safe as long as they produce results. However, when results tank, a lack of interpersonal skills, coupled with the inability to inspire, can be like water that finds the cracks in the dam. It makes everything they do look much worse.
- Over Reliance on Interpersonal Skills – The flip side of having no interpersonal skills can also be a problem. Interpersonal skills are valuable, but if they are not combined with other critical competencies, that leader is little more than a nice person. As an aside, I’ve seen an overreliance on interpersonal skills propel people to mid- or even senior-level management positions, but rarely to an executive level.
- Weak Results Orientation – Leaders must produce results, and that’s all there is to it. There is no one right way to achieve results, but it must be a driving factor of a leader’s work. Leaders who fail to produce results won’t stick around very long.
- Lack of Change Leadership or Innovation – Leadership isn’t about maintaining the status quo. Great leaders drive improvement, increase performance, and raise the bar for the entire organization. Leaders who operate within their comfort zone, even if they do so effectively, eventually find themselves in danger.
As a leader, it’s just as important to identify and understand the traits that undermine effective leadership as it is to recognize the characteristics of a successful leader. Taking time to self-reflect and address any of the red flags outlined here could be the difference between the life and death of an executive leadership career.