Four Guaranteed Ways To Fail As A Leader

Failure. It can be troubling; it can be hazardous; and in worse case scenarios, it can be fatal. A maritime incident of almost a decade ago reminds us of failure’s repercussions.

The Costa Concordia was an Italian cruise ship that partially sank when it ran aground near Tuscany, on January 13, 2012, with the loss of 32 souls.

The ship, carrying 4,252 people from all over the world, was on the first leg of a cruise around the Mediterranean Sea, when she hit a reef during an unofficial near-shore salute to the local islanders. 

To perform this maneuver, Captain Francesco Schettino deviated from the ship's computer-programmed route, claiming that he was familiar with the local seabed. The collision with the reef could be heard onboard and caused a temporary power blackout when water flooded the engine room. 

The captain, having lost control of the ship, did nothing to contact the nearby harbor for help but tried to resume the original course. In the end, he had to order evacuation when the ship grounded after an hour of listing and drifting. Meanwhile, the harbor authorities were alerted by worried passengers, and vessels were sent to the rescue. 

Schettino was arrested on preliminary charges of manslaughter in connection with causing a shipwreck, failing to assist 300 passengers, and failing to be the last to leave the wreck. He was later charged with failing to describe to maritime authorities the scope of the disaster and with abandoning incapacitated passengers.

The captain failed because he ignored what he knew to be right, proper, and safe.

Leaders always work, always make decisions, always engage people, even when the possibility of failure looms ahead. 


Here are four guaranteed ways to fail as a leader.

1. Fail to Realize that Developing People is Hard Work. If you choose to develop the potential in others, it's labor. It's hard work. It's not unlike parenting. There are good days and bad. Developing others takes time, energy, and careful planning. 

It is a proactive way of leading, rather than the reactive way many leaders unfortunately run their organization. D. L. Moody once said, “It is better to train a hundred men, then to do the work of a hundred men.” Ignore Moody - after all, what did he know?


2. Enroll in the George Costanza School of Leadership Development.
George, one of the main characters in the hit TV show of the 1990s, Seinfeld, is the king of insecure people. He reminds us that insecure leaders make others feel insecure. Tell yourself you're inadequate, messed up, and have no right to develop or lead anyone else. Embrace the idea that you can barely lead yourself. Or as George once exclaimed to a girlfriend, “I’m disturbed. I’m depressed. I’m inadequate. I’ve got it all!”


3. Believe that you are the only one qualified to do anything important.
This is the opposite of number two above. Believe you are the only one capable of doing anything right, proper, and doing it the way it ought to be done. When others try something, criticize them for it, take the task away from them, and do it yourself.  

Don't trust others. Repeat to yourself often, "If it’s going to be, it’s up to me!" This will guarantee that you will develop no one - and will soon have no one around to lead.


4. Commit to the mantra, "It is easier to lead followers than lead leaders."Leading leaders is tough; sometimes it’s like herding cats or nailing Jell-O to a tree. Instead, find a group of people who don't care what happens, who have no zeal, who lack vision, and who only show up every now and then. That is a much easier group to lead. 

Avoid placing yourself around those who care about what happens, want to make a difference in the world, and sacrificially commit to a cause. 




Do I recognize myself in any of the four ways mentioned?

What corrective steps do I need to take?

When and how will I take them?