Why Do Leaders Fail?

Posted by Joseph Sherren on September 26, 2017

As many of you are aware, this past summer I have been writing about a diversity of entrepreneurs in Prince Edward Island (PEI).  What I have discovered is that we have some of the most brilliant and hardworking business owners and leaders in the country.  We also have diligent employees, who sincerely want to do their best to help their organizations achieve success.

So why are many organizations struggling, and why can’t leaders get everything done?  More importantly, why are relationships between management and staff reported to be at an all-time low?

It is because companies promote high-potential, talented people who have proven themselves to be very capable at doing their jobs.  However, when they get promoted to management, instead of doing things and fixing problems, which they are good at, they are now required to “get things done through others” ─ they must become coaches, not workers.  But, these new managers have very little experience or training on how to manage, coach and be a mentor, and often the talents and skills of their people are overlooked.  Often, they end up burning out, trying to be a manager who takes care of every detail and solve every problem.

This detracts from the development and job satisfaction of their people, and they are perceived as a controlling, micro-manager, who will eventually fail.  Have you heard the expression, “You are either born to be a manager or you are not?”  This is not true.  Almost everyone can be a great and successful manager with the appropriate training.

I also hear the Peter Principle recited by leaders – meaning people get promoted to their level of incompetence.  This too is a fable.  What actually happens is we promote talented people with great potential into management positions, and then do not provide them with the support, skills development, or coaching they require.
Repeatedly, these managers say to me: “It’s quicker to just do it myself.”  In the long run, it’s not.  Skilled managers who have been trained to delegate, develop, and empower others always get more done, more effectively, and are generally less stressed.
A 2011 Poll by DDI Research Group found the following:
  • Only 11 percent of managers in U.S. companies have any formal management training.
  • Over 20 percent said they were promoted into management because of their technical skills.
  • A full 57 percent had to learn management skills through the “sink or swim,” “baptism by fire method.”

These figures are inexcusable. I suspect the statistics might even be worse in the Maritimes.  Most companies would not hire somebody to drive a truck, or even clean windows without appropriate training.  So why do organizations continue to put people in management positions where they are responsible for other human beings – probably the most important job they will ever have ─ with little or no training?

Today’s competitive pressures have forced every corporation to re-examine its practices. Many companies now realize that they can’t afford to continue to operate with ineffective, unskilled front-line management.

To succeed in the future, every organization must:

  • Have highly skilled, but less layers of managers.
  • Have day-to-day decision making closer to the customer.
  • Utilize the collective capabilities of every worker.

The organization that can harness the collective potential of all its employees will become a powerful force for producing long-term success. But, this will only happen with a skilled and supportive management team.

My question for business owners:

Do you have a formal on-going training process to ensure your managers are prepared to take on the role of leader?
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