“My Boss is a Loser”


Posted on May 1, 2009 by Blake Leath

Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake, but having heard this sentiment three times this past week from employees in different organizations, “message received!”

Indeed, there are many loser-bosses.  Why so surprised?  The rungs of leadership and management are not immune to the bell curve of life.

The succeeding questions, however, are what matter more: “Why?”  and more audaciously, “How can I remedy this?”

First, to the Why.  There are generally 5 Root Causes for Leadership Failure.  Quickly (lest this become a 10,000 word essay), they are:

1.     Selection: We’ve started with an acorn, hoping it will grow into a pecan tree.

2.     Understanding: The individual fails to grasp, intellectually, what is expected as a leader. 

3.     Behavior: The individual fails to acquire or master the skills required to blossom into leadership competence.

4.     Barriers: Whether personal (e.g., drama) or organizational (e.g., hierarchy, ambiguity, limited resources), there is an Achilles Heel that continually pulls the leader down and away from performance.

5.     Desire/Motivation: Sometimes resulting from the preceding, but often evolving from burnout or rustout, the leader simply fizzles out.

Considering these root causes and their branches, it’s relatively simple to pinpoint an individual’s reasons for failure.

And now, a tad on Remedy.  I will provide only the broadest of strokes and address just three factors here, because entire FIELDS and INDUSTRIES exist to fully remediate leadership deficits.

To develop a leader, just like a diamond, three key ‘environmental factors’ are helpful.  (This is to say ‘nothing’ of the perennially important ‘nature vs. nurture’ dialogue and innateness.) 

1.     First, great leadership generally emerges over Time if it is to sustain deep roots and broad leaves. 

2.     Second, enough Pressure must exist – in terms of consequences – to berm, direct, and focus leadership talent.  (This is the ‘push.’)

3.     Finally, enough Heat must exist – in terms of personal drive – to regularly motivate and inspire oneself to achieve, ascend, serve, contribute, sacrifice, whatever.  (This is the ‘pull.’)

From within environments where adequate mentors, coaches, and role models exist… where there is solid feedback and developmental opportunities combined through education and experience, organizations are more inclined to breed leaders.  All the more so when these leaders overcome the five roots of failure and experience the time, consequences, and motivation consistent with aspects of pressure cookers, kilns, or crucibles.

In short, if you want fewer “loser bosses,” start with the right seeds and afford them the right mixture of soil (which includes water, oxygen, sunlight, etc.) and fire.