When Leadership Fails

I am mostly offline, attending a business conference. I have asked several bloggers to post in my absence. This is a guest post by Jeremy Statton, an orthopedic surgeon and writer. You can follow his blog, connect with him on Twitter, or download a free copy of his book Grace Is. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Rainy days. Flat tires. The worst case scenario. As the saying goes, it happens. And so does poor leadership.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/blend_images

Leadership failures are often the result of:

  • Poor planning
  • Inexperience
  • Stubbornness
  • Lack of vision
  • Pride

It happens more often than we would like to admit, especially when it is our fault.

When we are the victims, though, we notice it all the time. We see ourselves as being stuck in our circumstances. We complain. We gossip. We throw our hands up in the air and ask, “What if?”

“What if” is not necessarily a bad question. But instead of asking “what if those leading me were better,” we should ask, “what if I had responded to poor leadership better?”

Just because we suffer under someone’s mistakes does not mean we have to suffer. Even in tough circumstances, we choose how we respond.

I recently experienced a leadership “fail.” The person in charge did a horrible job. The leader lost focus on the mission of our team. They made decisions that were contrary to our values.

My leader was more interested in what he had to gain personally from our work than the actual work. He cared more about promoting his name than he did about serving people.

But even when our leaders fall short, there can be benefit to us if we choose to respond well. Here are five suggestions on how to get the most out of leadership failures.

  1. Patience. We live in a culture that demands a scapegoat. When something goes wrong, we immediately ask whose fault it is.

    Give your leader a break. We all make mistakes. Try to understand your leader’s failure. Is this a one time occurrence or a pattern? What was their motivation? Be patient and quick to forgive. You would hope for the same if it was your mistake.

  2. Diligence. A common response to poor leadership is to give up. Resist this urge. Keep working hard on your part even if it is under appreciated.

    Understand your leader’s weaknesses and try to help him through your strengths. You should always do your job well. Poor leadership is never an excuse to be lazy. In fact, your hard work will be needed more than ever.

  3. Experience. Don’t let a mistake pass you by without learning from it. These are incredibly valuable moments. It is bad enough that a leadership fail has occurred. It is worse to let it pass without learning from it.

    The best lessons often come from mistakes. If you learn from your leader’s mistakes, then you gain valuable knowledge without having to make the same mistake yourself.

  4. Honesty. Telling the truth is always good. Always. If you make a mistake, admit it. If your leader makes a mistake, you may have to be honest with them.

    Depending on your circumstances, the best thing you can do is simply discuss the failure in open dialogue. Do not be aggressive and blame. But be willing to ask tough questions and engage the tension. It may turn out that your leader had no realization of the mistake they made.

  5. Moving on. Sometimes the only option you have is to move on. Don’t start here, but don’t be afraid to do it eventually either.

    Moving on is an issue of discernment. Use your best judgment to decide when a situation is hopeless, and if it is, pull the trigger. Don’t waste time trying to right a sunken ship.

How we respond to the leadership failures of others gives us the opportunity to be true leaders by the example we set in our response.

Question: Have you ever suffered under a leadership failure? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    I’d be amazed to find someone who has been led by a leader who fails.  No one is perfect – not even your boss or mine.

    I think it’s important to remember that we don’t know what our leader is going through.  Are they having a bad day?  Did something happen at home that is impacting their decisions at work?  What kind of pressure are they under?  Is this a pattern or is it a rare happening?  It’s definitely important (on occasion) to give grace to our leaders.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Grace is a beautiful thing, to both give and receive.

      • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

        To give grace is hard, then you think about the grace that’s been given to you and it’s not so hard anymore.

    • http://www.irunurun.com/blog/ Travis Dommert

      I totally agree with your last points.  Somewhere along the way I was taught the killer phrase, “Assume positive intent.”  These 3 words create a POWERFUL paradigm that people don’t usually intend to do a terrible job or make others miserable.  When it happens, it’s usually on accident.

      When people fail to lead, it may be because of a blind spot, a huge challenge we aren’t even aware of, or other issues.  Starting with “Hey, can we talk?  I know your heart is in the right place, but I’m concerned about xyz…” is such a better way to start than going to someone else to complain or cranking up the rumor mill.

      The single biggest challenge to acting on this method…YOU MUST TRUST THE LEADER.  If s/he sets the precedent that constructive feedback = disloyalty = execution…you may be in the sinking ship bucket Jeremy warns about…persevere quietly or lead yourself elsewhere.

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

         “Assume positive intent” is a great way to approach relationships. If I want others to do the same with me, it only makes sense to offer than kind of grace. I also resonated with your last comment. I’ve experienced teh kind of leader who sets the precedent of “constructive feedback = disloyalty = execution.” Until I experienced it, I had no idea how incredibly destructive it is to both individual relationships and the team as a whole.

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

         I too like the “Assume positive intent.” Those words are helpful when I get in a disagreement with my wife. Too often I’ve assigned negative motives to something she’s said or done. Then as the conversation progresses, I realize how wrong my assumption has been.

    • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

      Very good thoughts. Especially in a volunteer position where there is no money involved, it changes things a bit. People need more grace when the money isn’t involved.

  • http://managebetternow.com/ Manage Better Now

    Great advice.  I think a lot of times when we start a new job we tend to panic when we see that the leadership is not as strong as we would like.  I know I have done that in the past.  I have come in with a sense of how I thought things were going to be, and when everything was not perfect I would start regretting my decision to join the company at all.  You touched on patience, and I am happy to see that it was your first recommendation.  Patience has a way of helping us correct a lot of situations.  I am a long term reader, but this is my first comment.  This post was too good to pass up.  Thanks, Michael. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Patience helps us get to the other ideas. Thanks.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      My husband is that kind of man, slow to react and patient with the mistakes of others. He’s taught me a lot about taking in relational disappointments slowly, and then allowing plenty of time to process it and evaluate it before responding.

  • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

    So true, Jeremy. Great thoughts! I’ve had similar experiences with poor leaders (and have been that poor leader). I wrote about my experiences here – http://www.michaelnichols.org/poor-leader. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      You’re welcome, Michael.

    • http://robsorbo.com/ Rob Sorbo

      I like that post Michael. I think it’s great that you mentioned calling. My parents are missionaries and they’ve persevered through shaky leadership for years because  the people of Indonesia are their first priority.

      • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

        I think we can all take a page out of the book of missionaries. They often serve in governments where corruption or shaky leadership is the foundation of the nation.

      • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

        Yes sir. Knowing your calling and knowing you’re living will keep you going when nothing else will. Thanks!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      Thanks for the link, Michael. I especially liked your second point and surrounding yourself with positive people. Your practice of reading positive notes to remind yourself why you do what you do especially resonated with me. Good piece and definitely lines up with Jeremy’s post.

      • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

        So true. Reading the notes bring clarity and help me refocus. Thanks!

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  • http://missionallendale.wordpress.com/ Joey Espinosa

    I just got out of a job with major leadership problems — with my boss and with the leadership and HR committees (it was a non-profit). I did learn a lot that is helping me with my current roles in working with at-risk children, so the opportunity was definitely worthwhile. But it was taking its physical/emotional toll on me.

    But before that, I had a great boss for 4 years (it may have helped that he was a mentor to me for 2 years before that, and we’ve been friends before and after I worked for him). 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks for sharing your story. Glad to hear you found something better and that you learned from the other job.

  • http://runningwithhorses.wordpress.com/ Steve Hawkins

    One characteristic I’ve experienced of a good leader is that they generate other leaders from within their influence. They recognize potential from within their ranks and lift these people up to their level, helping them understand that they too can be a leader as well. 

    I think it was Zig Ziglar who once said that if you think you’re a leader, look behind you. If no one is following, you’re just taking a walk. 

    • http://robsorbo.com/ Rob Sorbo

      That’s a great quote. It’s interesting seeing the illusion created by job titles.

      • Jim Martin

        This is a great quote.  Far too many people seem to believe that it is the title that makes a person a leader.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       Steve, you bring up an excellent point about good leaders raising up other leaders. Coaching family trees find an awful lot of successful coaches groomed by other successful coaches, i.e. Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren to name two coaches who influenced a herd of excellent coaches.

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    I have been in this situation and have coached others in this situation.  The leader who fails needs to have people working with them with the courage to step forward and make speak out.  If I am in that position, and I don’t step forward and speak out, what type of leader am I?  

    I may not have the position of leader (positional leadership) but I can still be an influence leader. We all have the responsibility to make our organizations better.  We just need the courage when we see a leader fail, to step forward or else we’ve just added another failure to the list.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree that we can all make our organizations better. We have to be asking ourselves if what we are doing now does that or not. Thanks, Dave.

  • http://www.thegeezergadgetguy.com/ Thad Puckett

    It is definitely the case that all leaders are human, and all of them will, at times, disappoint.  I know for a fact that I have failed at times (as a leader).  And we do very definitely live in a culture looking for perfection, and demanding a scape goat.

    What is more egregious is systemic failure. That doesn’t have to happen, or shouldn’t be allowed to reach that point.  It is demotivating in the extreme, and very hard to overcome.  

    By systemic failure I mean situations where a culture of poor leadership is tolerated, and where those seeking to bring change to the organization are hounded out.  In that instance, it is a failure to confront reality, to live in an unreal world.  

    For a company, organization or even a nation to succeed, a culture of failure has to be rooted out.  The question, then, is who is capable of doing that.

    • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

      Thad —

      You ask the $64,000 question!  

      Recognizing a culture of failure can be difficult, especially for “insiders.”  Tradition – the way things have always been done – can be so revered that failure is blamed on everything but the failure to make necessary changes.

      • http://www.thegeezergadgetguy.com/ Thad Puckett

        Ralph Neighbour wrote a book called “The Seven Last Words of the Church” (“We’ve never done it that way before”).  It could easily apply to any organization.

        • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

          Just ordered it!  Since I work for a church school, I’m guessing I’ll learn a lot about both!

    • Jim Martin

      I like what you are saying about systemic failure, Thad.  I first began to see this possibility through the writings of Edwin Friedman – Generation to Generation.

  • http://twitter.com/oarolin Oscar

    This has been the situationwith me, when leadership has fail. I’m just trying to react the correct way but it has been difficult. It is not easy when the team has lost trust and don’t know how to regain it again. I think I need to stand and my leadership’s shoes and see the things from their perspective. Thanks, will try walking this out.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Trust is crucial, and once lost is difficult to get back. It takes time and work. Hang in there, Oscar.

  • http://www.SiaKnight.com/ Sia Knight

    This is such an important topic.  The bottom line seems to be about grace (the permission to make mistakes).  Unfortunately, we can be very unforgiving in situations that can prove to be great learning experiences for all.  The challenge is to balance an expectation of excellence with an atmosphere that promotes growth.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Balance is always difficult. But we must find it.

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

         I have a friend who says balance is a myth, that all we can hope for is harmony. I like that.

        • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

          I like that too. Balance suggests just a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Harmony suggests that the different pieces work together to make a beautiful sound.

        • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

          I like that, too!

          Reminds me of a great “Leadership as Improv” training with Jazz Impact (http://www.jazz-impact.com/)  

          As each musician took turns leading while the others “comped,” the music didn’t sound balanced, but oh the harmony!

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

           That’s good…

        • Rachel Lance

          I like that choice of words a lot, it’s a fresh way of framing up personal filters. Very helpful – thanks!

          • Jim Martin

            I also like this choice of words, Rachel.  Very good.

  • http://twitter.com/Juanbg Juan

    Great post Mike, it comes down to ownership, taking responsibility, being accountable.

  • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

    Excellent post, Jeremy. Last year I went through a particularly difficult time where the leader wasn’t just inept, but personally insulting to me (and others). And it was for a volunteer position, too! Though I was a most valuable person on his team, he saw me as a threat to his self-centered ambitions. Needless to say, I considered quitting.

    Here’s what kept me focused: Though I lost confidence in the leader, I did not lose it for the community in which we served. Though I seriously contemplated leaving in a huff, I stayed and let time smooth things over. Now a few months later, the dust has settled and I’m glad things are back in focus. I keep arm’s length from this particular person, but I’m still able to get good things done.

    And that lends to another thing: I needed to let go of what COULD have been. I used to try to change this man’s perspective, try to get him to realize that he should not be threatened by me or others who had good things to offer. He just couldn’t get there (and he still isn’t able). I’ve learned to accept that, and though opportunities are lost, the greater purpose of the nonprofit presses on. I’m able to contribute where I am allowed.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Understanding your “why” is very important. Thanks for reminding us.

    • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

      Chris —

      Great distinction between losing confidence in your leader and losing confidence in the community you served.

      In the past, I’ve wasted valuable time and energy trying to change my principal and school culture. Now, I change what I can: myself and my classroom culture. In small (and often unexpected!) ways, my changes influence those outside my classroom doors.

      • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

        I was an English teacher, too, in the 1990s. The most successful teachers are ones that keep this perspective. I so identify!

    • Rachel Lance

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Chris. 
      I love your observation, “I needed to let go of what COULD have been”  I’ve recently been on my own journey of this nature – it’s not easy! Great comment, thanks!

    • Jim Martin

      Chris, you have some great insight into this subject.  I really like this line: “Though I lost confidence in the leader, I did not lose it for the community in which we served.” This is such an important distinction that you make.

  • http://www.thenancyway.com/ Nancy Roe

    No one is perfect and there will always be failures.  If you can admit what went wrong and move forward, you will become a stronger person.  I feel honesty (with yourself and with others) is the most important factor in becoming a strong leader.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Honesty is always good. Admitting mistakes can only comes from those who have a strong sense of who they are.

    • Jim Martin

      Nancy, you are right.  Honesty is huge in a leadership role.

  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    Love this, Jeremy!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks, Jeff.

  • http://robsorbo.com/ Rob Sorbo

    My wife has been experiencing a lot of leadership failures at her job. I keep encouraging her to look for traits that she’ll practice (or specifically avoid) when she’s in some kind of leadership role.

    Fortunately, I’m blessed with great leaders!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-Kemnitz/1395514240 Sue Kemnitz

    This is a great post! I have tried, as you mentioned, to turn the table in most circumstances: What could I have done differently. How could I have built them up, using their (love) language, rather than focus on shortcomings. Who is God and what does He bring in the situation? It has changed my life, enabled me to see from the perspective of Jesus. And brought a new depth to my relationships.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      It reminds me of the man who had a large debt forgiven, but then turned around and had a debtor thrown in prison for a much smaller amount of money. Grace is an important value to have.

  • Louise Gallagher

    We had a change of leadership where I worked that eventually lead to my leaving. I struggled for a year to find the value, stay positive, bring my best forward and eventually had to acknowledge that I was suffering — both my performance and my mental and physical health. Leaving was very very hard. I loved the place. I loved what I did and felt fulfilled in doing it. And I knew I was making a difference. But the gap between us was too broad for me to close, and I found myself out of alignment with the leadership. 

    For me, that was one of the most challenging aspects of the situation. I recognized the difference in leadership style was inevitable, the changes to the core values and principles I upheld however, made it too difficult for me to stay. 

    To be effective, I need to be aligned with the values and principles of the leadership — and I wasn’t. And in that mis-alignment, I was compromising both the organization and myself. Ethically, I knew I couldn’t stay. And, when I find myself ‘gossiping’, I know I’m in trouble. When I find myself not bringing my best forward, I’ve got a problem.

    Thanks for this post — I really appreciate the perspective you’ve provided me.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I think you touch on an important topic. Adjusting to new or different leadership is one thing. Changing core values is another. I agree with you. If you do not agree with the core values, you will not be effective. Thanks for sharing Louise.

      • Jim Martin

        You are so right, Jeremy.  Unfortunately, this is what some people experience far too often with a new leadership.  When those core values change, it is very difficult to be effective.

  • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

    Great post. I think everyone can relate to having to deal with someone else’s leadership failure at some point.  And hopefully the measure of grace you give to your leader, will someone be given back to you.

    I also found your bio intriguing. Surgeon says intellectual, and writer says creative.  Makes me wonder if you are one of the few doctors who has legible handwriting.  *smile* Have a great day, Jeremy!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      It’s funny that you say that, I do get compliments from nurses about how greatful they are that my handwriting is legible. I do it on purpose. It reduces the chance of miscommunication and phone calls.

  • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

    I have had failures as a leader, and I am thankful for the grace that was shown to me, even when it ended up in my moving on from the organization.  As a leader, it is very easy to beat yourself up for mistakes, and as the article states our culture focuses on whom is to blame, instead of how can we learn from this issue.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks for sharing the perspective of someone who has received grace. Your story should be more common.

      • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

        Thanks Jeremy.  When we receive grace, we should also extend grace.

  • Anonymous

    Just wanted to take a quick moment to express my appreciation for this article.  Great wisdom and insight!  Thanks Jeremy!!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      My pleasure Steven.

  • http://www.dennisbrooke.com/ Dennis Brooke

    Jeremy – At one time I worked for a larger than life leader who was replaced by someone whose pride led to massive failure of what had been a successful company. The lesson I learned was do your best to support the new person but when it’s clear it’s not going to work out–exercise point number 5 and move on! I would have been in a much better position if I had left earlier rather than waiting until the ship was keeling over like the Costa Concordia.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Pride is a horrible reason to fail in leadership, but it does happen.

    • Jim Martin

      Dennis, good point!  You are right.  It is important to be supportive of a new person but when it it is obvious it is not going to work, then move on.

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    Leadership failures. I’ve been under them, and I’ve done them.  It’s a tough thing to have to own up to your own failures when they happen.  But I think I’ve learned as much from my own mistakes as from the mistakes of others.  Thanks for the great article today!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Mistakes are often the best lessons.

  • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

    Great write Jeremy.  Like you said, leadership failures will happen, and our response is up to us.  That being said, I have learned that great leaders are transparant and vulnerable about their failures, enabling the team to grow with them through those moments.  It seems counter-intuitive to lead from failure/brokenness, but I have seen that type of leadership speak volumes.  

    Thanks for this perspective today.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      You are welcome. What kind of doctor are you?

      • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

        Doctor of chiropractic.

        One crucial thing I didn’t mention that others have brought up was being able to recognize a culture of failure. You touched on this, and I glided right past it initially.

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  • http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com/ Cynthia Herron

    Such great tips! Thank you!

    Many years ago, I knew of a fellow who actually dozed off during staff meetings. It’s believed he had a medical malady, but since it was never actually adressed, it was a bit awkward. (Especially, because he was the “leader” in charge of facilitating/moderating the meeting!) After several moments of awkward silence, a co-worker would gently nudge this gentleman with his elbow, as if reaching for the coffee carafe.

    Though we well understood privacy issues, this was something that should have been addressed by upper management. The problem: he WAS upper management!

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Cynthia, you can’t make up stuff like that!  It’s amazing how good leadership tips, like Jeremy’s above, address even the wildest of circumstances like that one!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I have been in a similar situation. Instead of a medical problem the guy was just older and tired. It was always pretty funny.

  • Anonymous

    Leadership is and will always be a hot topic esp. in our current world today. In my experiences with those that were there to lead as well as my own opportunity to lead others there has been times of failure. The reality of  a person letting another person down is common to all men. I like the greater emphasis that you made in how each one responds in the situation. Life is fickle, men and women alike are the same. Although this is true we still tend to at time over expect  from those that are in front of us. Not to say that we shouldn’t have high expectations for the leader but we must keep in mind the possibility of  he/she letting us down. Peter didn’t just let Jesus down by denying him but he also let down the other disciples that were with him. Yet how did Jesus respond? “…When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers.” Or how about when Peter said to the master “how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Jesus replies, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. We all need to remember in every opportunity that we have been given to lead how the greatest leader that ever lived responded in the time of peoples failures. Of course that all depends on if he is the one who’s leading us.   

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      When I read Peter’s question I find it absurd. Of course we keep forgiving others. But then I quickly turn around and are harsh towards others. It’s a great reminder.

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

    Jeremy, thx for the great post.

    I like #3.

    Even the worst situations have a lesson to be learned. Those who do not learn them are bound to repeat until they do.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I don’t want to be that guy. Thanks, Craig.

  • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

    I know I am constantly trying to guard against failing. I try to be wise in all ways (been reading through Proverbs lately and it has a lot to say about wisdom). This post has been bookmarked to come back to. I know failure sometimes happens and I need some reminders on how to respond when they do.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Your point about Proverbs, Brandon, is right on.  Everything that we need to know about how to deal with people is in that book! 

      • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

        I’m finding that out. I realized I had never really read through Proverbs other than in a “reading through the Bible in a year” kind of way. I started out reading a chapter a day but I may have to slow down. 

  • Paul Wells

    I have committed many leadership failures, and have been subjected to many as well. Your essay regarding the importance of our response to another’s failure really hit home with me. I am convicted about the lack of grace I exhibited, and am committed to not do that again. We are all only human, after all, and live in a fallen world. How hypocritical of me to expect perfection in my leaders, when I so frequently display my own imperfection.
    Great post! Thanks!

    • Jim Martin

      Paul, thanks for your words.  I relate well to what you say here regarding expecting perfection from your leaders while displaying your own imperfection.

  • http://www.bethszimmerman.com/ Beth Zimmerman

    Oh my goodness! Perfect post for me right now. Thank you! I am a writer (just recently made that realization and began working on pursuit of my dreams that I didn’t even really know I had) who works a mundane clerical job doing data entry for a private university. It was recently necessary to change database software and our bosses chose one that they promised would be awesome! It’s not! What used to take us an hour now takes 4 or 5. Thankfully we are in a slow period now but the situation needs to be resolved before August when we start getting slammed. Several of my co-workers have quit. I am trying to be patient and make the best of it, while looking and praying for other work. It’s hard! :)

    • Jim Martin

      Beth, what a frustrating situation.  In particular, doing work that took an hour at one time now taking 4-5 hours.  Wow.  Sounds as if the timing of this post was right for you.  

  • http://www.justcris.com/ Cris Ferreira

    “You would hope for the same if it was your mistake.” I remember when a visitor pastor at my church preached about the Lord’s commandment to love others as we love ourselves, and one of the things he said we have to do is to be as understanding of their shortcomings and failures as we are of ours. Your phrase reminded me of that, and it is a great advice indeed. 
    Great post, Jeremy.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Too often we forget that we wouldn’t want to be treated the way that we treat leaders who make a mistake. It’s a great point to remember.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’ve been thinking the same, Cris.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      For me, this is hardest with my children. My expectations for them are often higher than they are for myself. I give myself way more room to goof up.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    It’s so important to lead by example, our Lord lead this way. I’ve found that whether I’ve tried to or not, my work has been at whatever level the leadership level is. Meaning if you can tell the leader doesn’t care, then I might not work as hard. Great post Jeremy

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great point, Kimanzi!  The team will only rise to the level of its leader.  John Maxwell calls that the Law of the Lid in his epic “21 Laws of Leadership”.  

      And yes,   Jesus was the ultimate model of leading by example!

  • http://twitter.com/andrewstark andrewstark

    At my work we’ve learning about learner / player vs knower / victim.

    When you know that your boss is making a mistake but you do along with it as you don’t want to upset them it’s just magnifying the failure. Gossiping and undermining will get you nowhere, so if you really believe the team is going in the wrong direction then raise your concerns at the appropriate time and be constructive in your feedback.

    This will be difficult, but should lead to an overall stronger team where everyone is able to be open and honest about how decisions are being made.

    Sometimes you will end up agreeing to disagree, but as you say in point 5 moving on and putting it down to experience can only be a good thing.


    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Great stuff. I agree that there is a time, place and attitude (constructive) that can make the needed process much easier.  And the cost of NOT doing it the right way is huge! Divisiveness, gossip, factions, sabotage, productivity suffers and so does morale!

      Thanks Andrew!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      There is always cost. Thanks for that reminder, Andrew.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com/ Nikole Hahn

    I’m learning! It’s tough being a leader, but I’m learning.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      So true, Nikole.  I hoped to learn how to be a great leader in a course or two, or even a degree program.  Though, I’ve learned that Leadership development is a lifelong process!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      You’re right Nikole, being a leader is tough. You gain a tremendous amount of responsiblitiy and more people take notice of what you do. Learn as much as you can and practice your leadership as much as you can. 

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    There’s been a few times I’ve suffered under poor leadership. To be honest, it was pretty bad but we made it through.

    Your point about patience is dully noted. I think it is one of the best things we can do for those that are leaders. Remembering that we are humans and we all make mistakes. Just learn and grow from it.

  • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

    The closest thing to me recently was a leader who gave me permission to do something then took that permission back without much explanation. What’s worse was that it was over e-mail and when I asked him why, he didn’t respond. It made me feel very little and insignificant. What I can learn from this blog though is that the team will need my strength because if I am feeling that, perhaps someone else is too.

    This is a timely post because I do agree that people are always looking for someone to blame. To be stern in your beliefs but to have grace I believe is a much needed commodity in leadership.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Blame does not solve problems, it only shifts the responsibility. Glad this helped, Daren.

  • http://www.gailsangle.com Gail

    May I add a word of caution here. A few years back my section had a newly hired leader who had moved interstate to work for us. We were kind, gracious, diligent, supportive, respectful of our leader, forgiving, patient etc about how we treated this leader and did our work. In our support of the leader their bullying and harrassing patterns were being hidden as we respectfully didn’t gossip about our feelings to each other or to others in the organisation. It took a long time for the upper management to notice that things were wrong and to investigate and finally fire this person for misbehaviour.

    Yes, I’m all for doing you’re best to follow the leaders put before you in life, but remember sometime they are wolves in sheeps clothing and people need to speak up and honestly say something when leaders abuse their position and power. Yes, be gracious, give them a chance but continual misbehaviour over time is not a mistake, it’s habit.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      I agree that abuse of power in the work place shouldn’t be tolerated in the office either. I don’t think that’s what Jeremy was going for here, and I am sure that he would agree that people that are using their power for dubious motives shouldn’t be tolerated.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I don’t disagree, Gail. Abuse and misbehavior are not necessarily the same as mistakes. The difficulty at times can be to see the difference. I hope that every discerns when to be patient and when to move one. Thanks for sharing your different opinion.

  • Bryon Mondok

    Great post. Thanks!

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    What a great post, Jeremy. So thoughtful processed and presented. Thanks for sharing your insight from what I’m assuming are years of challenges and experiences. This kind of wisdom is usually learned in the trenches. ;)

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks, Michele.

  • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

    Great post! I really liked #4, honesty, there have been a few times over the year where I had to tell my team, even though I am in charge, that I blew it with a decision or my actions—and the power of humbling yourself to your team, when appropriate, is really amazing, and ends up earning you more credibility. Great Job, Jeremy!

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    Yes, many. Almost to the point of not being able to trust leadership of any sort. God intervened and gave me godly leaders. He also showed me valuable lessons to learn in the mistakes of others, and these have been some of my best and most maturing experiences. Now, I am blessed to have many godly leaders in my life. Glad I didn’t give up.

  • http://www.dental-management.net/ DentalAccountant

    Yeah this post is interesting! I agree with the last tips “Moving on”! Failure is never a final!  And I think you can never be a good leader if you did not encounter failure, because in that failure we can realize our mistakes, and we have a chance to correct that mistakes,  am I right? I remember one quote says “Success can be measured not only in achievements, but in lesson learned”.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree. If you never meet failure, then you aren’t doing enough. As you point out, the key is to learn from it.

  • http://www.pmhut.com/ PM Hut

    Hi Jeremy,

    How do you reverse leadership failure? I see leadership failure  happen too often for project managers when they “fail the leadership test” with their employees. Is there a way to reverse that failure (I’m not talking about coping with it – I’m asking how to reverse it!)

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I think some of the things I mentioned in the post may help to reverse it. It is a form of reverse leadership. When those who should be led, do the right thing, it gives the leader a chance to change things.

  • http://twitter.com/peterwalters64 Peter Walters

    Thanks for the post.  You got me because I was not expecting you to go in this direction.  Great advice, this is the way we would love others to respond to us when we mess up but often this is not the response we give to others when they mess up.  

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Jeremy, when I saw the title, I thought moral failure. Glad to read something different, something that puts the onus on me to learn, whether I’m the leader who failed or enduring the leader who failed.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Funny. That never came through my mind when I wrote it. Perhaps I put that in a different category in my own mind. Thanks, TNeal.

  • http://www.robinsonleadership.com/ Toronto leadership development

    It can happen this scenario very easily if the leader wasn’t that good. In my opinion, to have a good leadership inside the company, we must communicate, listen others and trying to resolve the things if we have problems. It’s an interesting subject and we can learn over and over new things, because not always is the same. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Agreed. Not every scenario is the same.

  • http://twitter.com/xynergy Xynergy Web Dev

    Interesting post.

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  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    It’s natural for a human to fail. So, when a leader fails, I have not sensed that as something unusual. But, the way in which we respond when the leader fails matters the most. It’s true that when a leader fails, the price we are going to pay might be very huge but as followers, we can always learn from the mistakes of our leaders so that we do not repeat the same in future.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree. That’s what we have to choose to do for ourselves. Good to hear from you, Uma.

  • aeric bass

    Many time people feel fail of leadership. Its wonderful suggestion for  leadership failures. Its very useful post to every one.

    Leadership skills

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  • http://LeadershipPerformanceTips.com/ Rob Moore

    Thanks for sharing your experience! We all can lose focus at times no matter who we are. The one thing that I have learned over the past couple of years that helps me stay on track is to make my decisions from my heart rather than from my head. My heart has never steered me wrong. Thanks for sharing this post!

  • janeey davis

    It is fantastic post about why we fail in leadership. I absolutely agree with these five  reason for fail in leadership like Poor planning, Inexperience, Stubbornness,  Lack of vision, Lack of vision, Pride. indesign training

  • http://www.facebook.com/The.Nince Kenince E’m

    I am a leader in a youth group and I have been challenged today, one of the reason I stumbled on this site.
    I am in charge of communications in a youth ministry and one of my tasks is to keep their Facebook social page active, a task I share with two other senior officials in the ministry.
    This morning, one of the members raised a point that most of the posts on the page have been unanswered and others take too long before being responded to. Another claimed that the page has become more of a notice board than an interaction place…the comments that the said post received from other members of the page were crazy to say the least. Going through their posts, you can feel the anger, frustration and a need to ‘crucify’ someone for this one mistake that has never been brought to my/our attention before. I have never felt so much guilt in my life.
    For some reason, I was looking for a way out, to just give up…but that was until I came across this post. I might not be the best leader they’ve ever had, I might not have the leadership skills that’s needed but I can improve. I encourage myself that this one test will prove to me just how cut out for this task I am. It will also help me to know how to react when I experience failure in my leaders.
    Thank you.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Your welcome. There are two ways to learn in your scenario. One is to learn how to manage the Facebook page more to their liking. The second is personal management in how you respond to the criticism. I think you are headed on the right track Kenince.

  • Pastoreugene

    I was terribly angry for some time, until I reflected that the guy was going through a huge life-crisis and stuff just got away from him.
       A little compassion on my part might have helped.

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  • http://leadershipskillshq.com/ LeadershipSkillsHQ

    Your article Jeremy reminds me of a boss I have when I was still working in a corporate environment where the culture is only your boss can talk to the big bosses. You see this boss loves window dressing, making reports look good to upper management when in fact our department is experiencing some problems. We were asked to make reports look good, which of course is contrary to what the actual data says.

    There was a time when we really lost confidence in our boss and doing his orders against our will was the usual scenario everyday. When he’s not around we talk about how frustrated we are, but pretended everything is alright when he is around. Frustrated and feeling demotivated, I was the first one who left the company, and the others followed. As expected the project was eventually dissolved, with my manager being fired.

    Looking back, I often ask myself what could have hapenned if we have confronted our leader and brought out the problems besetting our project team? One important lesson that I learned is the importance of honesty and effective communication- honesty to admit what we have done wrong and an open line of communication to address issues and work on solving these problems.