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Wednesday Wisdom: Failed leadership should not punish the people

It is something that is all too often experienced by employees; a leader fails to be a leader and now the people are being punished by it. Sound familiar? When this happe

ns, it is actually the failure of the other leaders in the organization.

Here’s what happens. A leader makes a big mistake, they fail to lead and get caught, they make a really bad decision. The mistake that the leader made, instead of being brought out into the light to learn from the mistake is swept under the rug like it never happened.

Next, the employees start to feel the squeeze. All of a sudden out of nowhere the leader that had the critical failure gets promoted or transferred. The rules start to change. New policies are written. More consequences come for the people who are simply bystanders to the failure.

Personally, I have seen this happen too many times to count. The reality is the people know what happened. They have seen the leaders lack of ability to lead. They have watched the leader make poor and sometimes self-serving decisions for years. They have gone without strong leadership or no leadership for a time. Other leaders in the organization know what is going on but perhaps that failing leader carries an influence that intimidates others. Maybe the other leaders are afraid to confront the leader who is failing.

I have even seen the failing leader’s leader fail because they did not know how to give the feedback that they were failing. They were also producing at a level others had trouble reaching. I have watched incredible employees leave organizations because they were tired of not being led well and also frustrated that there was no accountability…that was unless they did something wrong.

The real problem is that the people should not be punished for a leader’s failure. In a solid organization a leader who is failing will be addressed immediately so the employees do not ever realize that the leader was failing. One of the fastest ways to erode morale is to not hold a failing leader accountable and punish the people instead.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about several things that lead up to this type of scenario and how to address each issue. In the meantime, I want to challenge every leader who reads this to consider if your failed leadership is punishing your people. Is there another failing leader in your organization that is resulting in the punishment of the people? What are you going to do about it?


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