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December 2018

7 Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Leaders

Dec 12, 2018 11:00 AM
Bruce Hunter

There are really are no appropriate words for just how spectacularly awful Donald Trump is as a leader. And a person I might add. Starting there, I wondered whether anyone in academia had studied the characteristics of poor leadership. It turns out that Sydney Finkelstein, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of business has done just that. Summarized below are some of his findings which will come as no surprise. Just think of how Trump leads and you’ll be able to draw any number of parallels. Finkelstein’s work was informed by studying over 50 companies and conducting over 200 interviews to ascertain how and why those companies (think Enron) became complete failures.

From an overall perspective, the work determined four conditions within which business failed. These include new ventures, dealing with innovation and change, managing mergers and acquisitions and addressing new competitive challenges. Not surprising. Further, he found that failure was caused by four patterns of destruction that pre-dated the failure.

· Flawed executive mindset that throws off a company’s perception of reality.

· Delusional attitudes that keep this perception in place.

· Breakdowns in communications systems developed to handle urgent information.

· Leadership qualities that keep a company from correcting a course of action.

Here then are 7 of those qualities. All of the leaders who presided over spectacular failures exhibited at least five. As you read them, think of Trump or your worst boss. It helped me bring them to life!

1. See themselves and their companies as invincible and dominating their environments.

2. Identify so completely with the company that there is no clear boundary between their personal and corporate interests.

3. They have all the answers.

4. They make sure they have 100% support, ruthlessly eliminating anyone who might undermine or challenge their efforts.

5. They are consummate spokespersons for themselves, devoting the largest portion of their effort to managing their image.

6. They belittle and downplay difficult obstacles and environments.

They rely on strategies and tactics that made them and/or their companies successful despite new information and competition.

Finally, Finkelstein offered up one question to ask to determine whether you are facing a spectacularly unsuccessful leader. “Is this Leader so aggressive and confident that I don’t really trust them?” Sounds like Donald to me!

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