You’ve established certain leadership development goals – but why is it that some leaders who are rising to the top succeed and stay in their positions as executives, whereas others who were seen as promising candidates for the corner suite get fired, demoted, passed over, burn out, retire, are laid off, or quit? Surprisingly, the research shows that the median rate of eventual failure for managers is 50%. [1]

Generally, books and articles on success tend to make the New York Times bestseller list. We are fascinated with learning from successful people like Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who on March 3rd, 2014 reclaimed his place as the richest person in the world. [2]

Are we led to read Gates’ numerous books because he is the richest person in the world?

May I suggest that we can learn more from failure than success?

This is because success stories tend to make us think that the road to the top was smooth and all we need to do is emulate the very successful. [3] Studying leaders who have failed can shed light on what values leaders hold as crucial in success. [4] The expenses in coping with the aftermath of an unsuccessful senior executive can amount to billions of dollars lost annually, not to mention the potentially significant psychological costs to the individual and the organizational system. [5]

Here are 3 principles to employ when striving to meet your leadership development goals:

Maintain Good Relationship Skills

Good leaders are people who sharpen their relationship skills. These leaders understand that people matter! They are successful at maintaining a strategic network, work through conflicts effectively, have political skill, express relationship savvy, and consider the needs of people first and foremost. [6]

Christ practiced servant leadership and we are called to follow in His footsteps. Christians put people first and then think about overall mission of the organization. We need to build strong relationships [7] and realize that there is value in caring for those in our network. Look for opportunities to develop new relationships and take risks in getting to know the people you work with on a personal basis.

Seek Christian Counseling to Know Yourself

hf8nqraerwa-tim-mossholderOrganizational scientists Robert Hogan and Rodney Warrenfeltz found three factors that are important to your self-concept. [8] The first factor is core self-esteem. Individuals with core self-esteem are able to suffer a setback and bounce back. These individuals have positive energy around them and are not easily upset or frustrated. As Christians, we practice being joyful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16). The second factor involves having a positive attitude towards those in authority over you. These leaders are more compliant, easy to manage, and are socially skilled. The third factor is the ability to be disciplined, control one’s appetites, stay focused on the task at hand, and go along with accepted procedures. Take time to understand yourself better.

It is also vital to link the way you carry yourself informally in the organization with the way the organization presents itself to you and the public. [9] A misalignment here could lead to poor perceptions by customers and key interests in your company. Project your informal organizational identity as being aligned with your company’s values and structures. This will help you be in sync with your organization’s identity and goals. [10] 

Walk in the Light as He is in the Light (1 John 1:7)

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”Ephesians 4:22-24

b_shpu5m3nk-patrick-foreCertain dark characteristics of leaders can increase the probability of failure. [11] These characteristics include, for example, being excessively self-confident, a tendency to take risks, being exploitative, desiring to be the center of attention, and behaving in odd or unusual ways. These behaviors are considered as ‘moving against people’ and in the long term are likely to lead to derailment. Recognize that too much of certain strengths like ‘self-esteem’ and ‘boldness’ can increase the probability of failure. [12]

A study done by organizational researchers Yi Zhang of Hong Kong and N. Anand Chandrasekar of Singapore discovered that leaders rated needed leadership strength higher on every single characteristic that was studied. [13] Zhang and Chandrasekar conclude that less of a particular strength can make a leader more effective and that leaders who believe having more of every single skill will likely fail in the long term.

Certain dark personal tendencies lead to short-term strengths but eventual weaknesses. [14] For example, the personal tendency to be excessively self-confident and overestimate one’s abilities can lead to having the personal strengths of courage, confidence, and charisma in the short term. In the long term, the personal tendency of excessive self-confidence and overestimation of abilities can lead to a sense of entitlement and difficulty owning up to mistakes. Therefore, it is crucial that you avoid the traps inherent in being too puffed up with pride. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

5 Practical Steps to Achieve your Leadership Development Goals

Seek out your Strengths and/or Areas of Weakness [15]

Make a list of strengths and weaknesses that you have as a leader. Then, check with your direct reports, peers, supervisors, and customers on the areas of strengths and weaknesses they see in your professional self. This type of feedback is called 360 feedback and it very helpful in getting rid of some of the blind spots in assessing our own work habits and performance.

Make a plan to work on some of the weak areas on a daily basis and keep a journal of your progress. Ask for 360 feedback regarding your progress after three months to further enhance your growth as a leader. This process does take some vulnerability on the leader’s part, but remember your team will see you as more human and it will lead to better relationships with others. Good relationships foster a climate of empathy and forgiveness of mistakes, which allows your learning to accelerate in a safe environment.

A limitation to 360 feedback involves a negative group think in the organizational culture against you for reasons not related to job performance. A further drawback to 360 feedback is that workers can gang up and destroy an employee that hurts their chances at promotion and thus objective 360 feedback is not gained during the process. To counter limitations of 360 feedback, the feedback needs to be confidential, not used to evaluate workers during performance reviews, constructive, solution focused, and ongoing over natural life cycles of the organization.

Adopt the Company Culture
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Adopting the organization’s culture may seem a little robotic to you. Do not worry, you are not becoming a part of the Borg (a mindless group of half humans and half robots) as depicted in the Star Trek TV series. Make a fearless moral inventory of how you act in the workplace when your boss in not managing you and you are just with your peers. Are your Christian values aligning with your workplace thoughts, emotions, and behaviors? Are you and some of your close peers displaying some negative work behaviors that do not align with the larger corporate values, procedures, protocols, and performance criteria?

Once you made your honest moral inventory, discuss them with your close peers so you can collectively work on improving these areas of growth. Communicate your team’s shared values and make it as public as possible how your team’s values and behavior align with your company’s values and behavior. This may mean taking part in more meetings involving other departments or larger team groups in the organization. Welcome communication about your team’s performance from those in authority over you and respectfully disagree when you feel it is a battle worth fighting for the sake of the team’s effectiveness.

Reflect and Obtain Christian Coaching when Necessary
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Unholy leadership characteristics stem from a desire to exploit others, gain power, obtain personal recognition, and get ahead at all costs. [16] When you or others in your company notice that these are the drivers of your motivation, take a step back! Take a moment to reflect on  some healthy drivers that will motivate you to work effectively. Examine what feelings and behaviors led to the dark side of leadership. It is often hard to be objective in examining ourselves, so this is an ideal time to get the help of an internal or external coach to give you guidance in changing the dark side of leadership into more healthy ways of motivating yourself at work.

Take Charge of Stress

Treat stress as your enemy. Have a collaborative approach rather than a competitive approach. This can be practically lived out by seeking the increase of your job scope so that you are forced to work with other departments collaboratively. Learn healthy coping mechanisms to mitigate stress and try to see the big picture when work is stressful.

Remember, just because you did not come up with an idea does not mean you ‘lose.’ An attitude of Christian humility and thankfulness can mitigate stress. Seek out resources for managing stress from your company. Consider seeking Christian counseling to reduce stress and gain a deeper perspective on what is going with you and your team.

Share your Authority and Equip your Team [17]

Organizational psychologists Chappelow & Leslie have the following suggestions to execute this strategy. Create and tailor individualized job responsibilities for your team based on your ‘to do’ list. Rotate those job responsibilities, as much as possible, based on skill level so that everyone on your team is learning something new and is being challenged.

Set and monitor goals of your team. Make sure there is alignment between personal goals, team goals, and corporate goals. Encourage a coaching culture in your team. Attend meetings with your boss or bosses in other departments to gain corporate buy in for a coaching culture in your organization. Offer non-tangible (praise, recognition) and/or tangible rewards (bonuses, salary increase) for the team’s ‘small wins’ in project completions or at mid-point reviews.

By paying attention to these components and taking active steps to move forward, you can accomplish your leadership development goals.

References 
[1] Gentry, W. A., & Chappelow, C. T. (2009). Management derailment: Weaknesses that can be fixed. In R. Kaiser (Ed.), The perils of accentuating the positive (pp. 99-113). Tulsa, OK: Hogan Press.

[2] Sifferlin, A. (2014, March 3). Bill Gates is the richest man in the world (again). Time. Retrieved from http://www.time.com

[3] Nisen, M. (2012, December 17). You can learn more from failure than success. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com

[4] Van Velsor, E., & Leslie, J. B. (1995). Why executives derail: Perspectives across time and cultures, Academy of Management Executive, 9, 62-72.

[5] Gentry, W. A., & Chappelow, C. T. (2009). Management derailment: Weaknesses that can be fixed. In R. Kaiser (Ed.), The perils of accentuating the positive (pp. 99-113). Tulsa, OK: Hogan Press.

[6] Hogan, J., Hogan, R., & Kaiser, R. B. (2010). Management derailment: Personality assessment and mitigation. In S. Zedeck (Ed.), American Psychological Association handbook of industrial and organizational psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

[7] Chappelow, C., & Leslie, J. B. (2001). Keeping your career on track: Twenty success strategies. Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership

[8] Hogan, R., & Warrenfeltz, R. (2003). Educating the modern manager. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 2, 74-84.

[9] Otubanjo, O., & Amujo, O. C. (2012). A holistic corporate identity communications process. Marketing Review, 12, 403-417. doi:10.1362/146934712X13469451716673

[10] Hogan, J., Hogan, R., & Kaiser, R. B. (2010). Management derailment: Personality assessment and mitigation. In S. Zedeck (Ed.), American Psychological Association handbook of industrial and organizational psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

[11] Carson, M., Shanock, L., Heggestad, E., Andrew, A., Pugh, S. S., & Walter, M. (2012). The relationship between dysfunctional interpersonal tendencies, derailment potential behavior, and turnover. Journal of Business & Psychology, 27, 291-304. doi:10.1007/s10869-011-9239-0

[12] Cottell, C. (2012). Recruiters can help spot executive derailment traits. Recruiter, 5.

[13] Zhang, Y., & Chandrasekar, N. A. (2011). When building strength is not enough: An exploration of derailment potential and leadership strength. Journal of General Management, 36, 37-51.

[14] Carson, M., Shanock, L., Heggestad, E., Andrew, A., Pugh, S. S., & Walter, M. (2012). The relationship between dysfunctional interpersonal tendencies, derailment potential behavior, and turnover. Journal of Business & Psychology, 27, 291-304. doi:10.1007/s10869-011-9239-0

[15] Yost, P. R., & Plunkett, M. M. (2011). Real time leadership development. [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com

[16] Carson, M., Shanock, L., Heggestad, E., Andrew, A., Pugh, S. S., & Walter, M. (2012). The relationship between dysfunctional interpersonal tendencies, derailment potential behavior, and turnover. Journal of Business & Psychology, 27, 291-304. doi:10.1007/s10869-011-9239-0

[17] Chappelow, C., & Leslie, J. B. (2001). Keeping your career on track: Twenty success strategies. Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership

Photos
“Lighthouse,” courtesy of Tim Mossholder, unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License ; “Pray,” courtesy of Patrick Fore, unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Keeping Up,” courtesy of Olu Eletu, unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Getting it Done,” courtesy of Cathryn Lavery, unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License

 

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