When it comes to improving our leadership skills, there’s an understandable tendency to seek insights on how to succeed at leadership. But what about taking a closer examination at how we lead to better understand the ways that we fail at leadership? It’s something I explore through one leader’s example in this episode of the Leadership Biz Cafe podcast.
If I were to ask you right now to think of the name of a leader, what names come to mind? Many times when I ask this question in my leadership keynotes or training sessions, the typical answers I get are Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Malala Yousafzai, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Mother Teresa. Invariably, the reason why these individuals are on top of mind for so many people is because each of them in their own way serves as inspiration for how to face adversity or challenges and come out stronger and better in the end.
Of course, as I remind my audience in this exercise, as much as we should make note of those leaders who overcame various challenges to achieve their vision, we should also be mindful of those leaders whose personal actions and behaviours, and for some outright hubris, lead them astray and ultimately their downfall as leaders of their organization.
One of the more recent examples of this kind of leadership failure is former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn. Under Winterkorn’s leadership, Volkswagen manipulated their car software to make it appear as though their cars met various international emissions standards. While Winterkorn has claimed he had no knowledge this was going on, the fact remains as CEO, Winterkorn’s actions and behaviours lead to a culture where such dishonest practices could be employed, ultimately leading to both financial losses as well as an erosion of consumer trust in the Volkswagen brand.
However, in this edition of Leadership Espresso Shot, rather than focus on such a high profile leadership example as Winterkorn’s, I’d like to share a more personal example of a leader I once worked with as it will show how it’s often not these major violations of trust (and the law) that can lead to us to fail as leaders. Rather, it’s often everyday actions and behaviours we are taking that end up taking away any chances we may have to succeed at leadership.
So do check out this episode and learn from the example of this leader to make sure you’re not just putting measures in to succeed at leadership, but you’re also this critical area where so many fail when it comes to effective leadership.
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