Often there comes a time in the history of an enterprise when a designated leader has lost the followership of those they are responsible for leading. Followers don’t believe what he has to say, don’t feel he has their best interests at heart, they see her holding herself to a lower standard than everyone else, or are perhaps tired of seeing people treated in an abusive or disrespectful manner. At times, it’s just sheer incompetence. Any benefit of the doubt that the leader might once have enjoyed has vanished, permanently. This happens in businesses, governments, churches, non-profits, just about any type of organization you can think of.
There once was a time when it might have been possible to recover from such a gross leadership failure, a time when people were less distracted, more forgiving, and took a really long view of the employment relationship, where a single job lasted for at least half, and maybe an entire career. Those days are gone. In an age when most jobs last slightly less than the first term of an elected President, there simply isn’t time or the mood for redemption. The only viable solution is surgery, radical surgery involving the excision of the leader.
Looking at recent examples involving the likes of Uber and Wells Fargo, it’s possible, and I think correct to conclude that management usually waits too long to make a move. The modern organization is very quick to become distracted or lose traction, and thus, damage is done at warp speed while the organization sorts out the repair or replace option. Here are three things to think about:
- Well-conceived and well-executed employee engagement and 360 surveys will often spotlight precursors for leadership failure before any real damage has been done. If you’re faithfully doing these surveys and paying attention to the results, it’s possible to have the benefit of color radar and avoid a storm.
- For reasons I don’t fully appreciate, many leaders today have unburdened themselves of any responsibility for coaching their subordinates (and other team members) through difficult periods. If that sounds familiar, you would do well to have a squadron of capable coaches on speed-dial, and the discipline to call them, before the horse is out of the barn and several miles down the road.
- Though it is your duty to support teammates, certainly to include those who are struggling, if it’s apparent that this opera isn’t going to end well, dragging things out is anything but supportive… It’s cruel. Make the move, while you still have the benefit of the doubt, and an honest opportunity to help the incumbent get to their next station in life.
If you want to learn more:
For self-help, read Rebooting Leadership
For private or small group coaching, contact the author