Sheila Madden, CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting
Sheila Madden, CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting

The Cost Of Leadership Failure

These 3 truths about leadership are important to understand not just because they make for a successful leadership career and joyful experience of work. The fact is there is a staggering  financial reality associated with poor leadership that can mean the difference between enterprise success or failure.

Research done by the Center For Creative Leadership indicates that approximately one-third of new managers and executives will fail within 18 months. The cost of those failures can be as much as 5X the executive’s salary.

The 3 Truths That Make or Break A Leader:

Truth #1: The deeper our level of self-awareness, the more effective leaders we are now and will become later. There are many of reasons for this, but the first is that when we know our strengths, weaknesses, values, goals and triggers (both positive and negative) it enables us to  make good choices about the roles we take.  We simply don’t put ourselves into a situation where we won’t be successful.

That said, even when we are successful we experience failures. That is life and that is leadership. A high level of self-awareness allows us to know exactly when we are leaning into risk: we don’t do so unconsciously. And if we fail,  self-awareness is what helps us to look at our failings honestly, taking full responsibility for our decisions and our actions. When we do this, we are able to self-correct and move forward with more wisdom, humility and commitment. This process, by its very nature, makes us better leaders and enables us to lead others through similar developmental cycles.

How do we get more self-aware?

  1. Ask for feedback
  2. Listen to it with your heart and your head
  3. Learn from it and make the right changes with integrity and commitment

Truth #2: It is all about other people, not you: We know that the better we know our customers and focus on serving them, the more successful our business is, right? It is the same with being an effective leader. The more we know the talents, strengths, hopes, dreams and aspirations of the people we lead, the better we will be at matching people with the purpose and business model of the enterprise we are leading.  If it becomes all about us, our egos, our ambitions, we spend too much time trying to control things and we can end up acting out of our own fear of failure. Most importantly, when we act as individual contributors instead of leaders,  it is not scalable because we are counting primarily on ourselves to solve problems and get things done.  A leader’s job is to create an environment where people can thrive, learn, contribute and share in success individually and as a team. If we aren’t spending most of our time doing this, there is something wrong.

How do you develop empathy?

Make it a habit to ask yourself:

  1. What is this person or group thinking?
  2. What are they feeling?
  3. What do they want to accomplish?
  4. How can I help them succeed?

Truth #3: Leadership requires more emotional intelligence than IQ: This has been studied repeatedly, originally with Harvard graduates and in other studies and the results are always the same: The people with the highest IQ are rarely, if ever, as successful in their careers or their lives as the people with high EQ (Emotional Intelligence). In fact, 3 of the top 5 reasons for leadership failure are all about a lack of emotional intelligence:

The Top 3 Reasons for leadership failure according to the Center For Creative Leadership are:

  1. Problems developing interpersonal relationships
  2. Difficulty in building and leading teams
  3. Difficulty adapting to change

These lead to the remaining 2 reasons for leadership failure:

  1. Failure to meet objectives (because they have to be achieved through others)
  2. Too narrow of a functional orientation versus having a strategic company view (because more time is spent doing rather than leading)

How do we develop EQ?

  1. Get a measurement of where you are. Do a self-evaluation ( or a have a 360 done. A great read is, Working With Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.
  2. Work with a good coach to put together a development plan with specific leadership objectives that are tied directly to the metrics of your business
  3. Use discipline and practice to continuously develop EQ just like you would if you were training for any high performance sport. It doesn’t happen by itself.

When we choose to be leaders, we must choose wisely and understand that we are not playing  roles or filling  slots on the org chart. We are stepping into stewardship and we are responsible for the financial, professional and emotional success of others both inside and outside of the organization that we are leading.

Sheila Madden is the CEO of Madden Coaching & Consulting where she coaches and consults with leaders of high growth companies, individuals wanting to live an extraordinary life and young professionals who are ready to launch their careers with competence, confidence and character.

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