Two Common Failures of Leadership (and How to Correct Them)
The hardest part about being in a leadership role is knowing when everyone is lying to you.
I’m not talking about people being deliberately deceptive. It’s more like The Emperor’s New Clothes, or the phenomenon Malcolm Gladwell describes in Outliers, where co-pilots from rigidly hierarchical cultures are too afraid to tell pilots when something’s wrong, leading to a series of fatal mistakes.
The two most common leadership failures are:
- Failing to recognize a culture where employees don’t trust the information they get from you; and
- Not making people feel safe enough to tell you the truth about problems.
How do you solve or avoid these problems? It’s all about culture.
And positive cultures spring from an honest flow of information — a coherent, inspiring and achievable vision going out; accurate market and organizational intelligence coming in. In short, you win by taking a holistic approach to leadership.
1. Holistic leadership articulates a business-driven vision that also gives people something to believe in.
Developing and nurturing a vision is difficult enough. But the courage to communicate it separates the leaders who can from the leaders who do.
Can you articulate your business goals for 2015? Are they realistic, actionable, measurable and widely understood at all organizational levels? Even more important, can you articulate the vision behind them?
Your vision doesn’t just sit inside the cover of your annual report. It gives employees and customers something to believe in.
No one (especially Millennials) wants to feel like they’re trading their waking hours for a paycheck and a meaningless cause. We all want to feel like we’re spending our time on something truly valuable.
2. Holistic leadership shows the true context in which your business operates.
A funny thing happened when I interviewed an organization’s employees as part of a holistic transformation exercise: Even after their interviews, some continued to leave anonymous notes in my purse about how things “really operated.”
Many corporate cultures make people feel like they can’t tell the truth without being punished, thus pushing the truth farther and farther underground.
Our goal as leaders is fly the plane safely and land at the right destination, and we can’t do that if we foster a culture that only tells us what we want to hear (or advances someone’s personal agenda).
A holistic approach rewards honesty, makes people feel safe, and aligns your culture with your vision.
It’s easier to hide behind a position of leadership than it is to break formation and actually lead.
And being “holistic” isn’t about embracing some touchy-feely buzzword — it’s 100 percent about maximizing profitability.
The difference is this: Instead of leaving fear, confusion and dysfunction in its wake, a holistic approach empowers leadership with better information to set a more meaningful vision, make smarter decisions and create a more positive culture.
About the Author: Tanya Korpi Macleod is the founder of Minneapolis-based Macleod & Co. After more than 25 years of marketing and advertising experience in the U.S. and Europe, Tanya noticed that chasm that often exists between an organization’s theoretical marketing “plan” and its realistic ability to execute it. This led her to pioneer in the concept of “holistic marketing,” which redefines marketing as the complete process of bringing a product, service or company from inception to maximum ongoing profitability. Her mission is to show organizational leaders that a holistic mindset not only promotes a healthier culture, but a more profitable business.