Why We Pick Bad Leaders

Have you ever worked for a boss that was horrible?  That’s an easy question to answer, isn’t it!  The person came immediately to your mind (for my staff reading this, if I came to your mind first, your fired! I tease – you’re not fired – just come see me after your done reading this…) Almost all of us, probably 99.99% of us, have worked for a boss/leader we thought was just God awful.  It’s the perplexity of leadership.  I like to blame the entire leadership book industry.  Someone gets a promotion to a leadership position and they instantly get online for the latest leadership babble that’s being sold by some idiot that was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time of a successful company and now she or he is going to tell us how to be a great leader using 7 simple steps!  BS!

But, really, why do we hire such bad leaders?  CNN had an article recently that looked into this:

“The short answer is, we focus on all the wrong things, like a candidate’s charm, their stellar résumé or their academic credentials. None of this has any bearing on leadership potential. And despite claims to the contrary, even a candidate’s past results have little bearing on whether the promoted individual will succeed once promoted.

At best, a “track record” tells only half of the story. In a new position, the candidate will have to face new obstacles, deal with a new team, manage more people introduce new products and do it all without a clear road map.”

Ok, so we aren’t focused on hiring the right traits that makes a great leader.  The reality is, in most of our organizations, we hire “next-man-up” philosophy.  “Hey, Jill, is the best producer in the group, congrat’s Jill! you’re now the next boss!”  About 90% of leadership hires happen like this – most of you will attempt to call that “Succession Planning” – but it’s not – it’s “convenience planning” and it’s bad HR.

Can we all agree to one thing (this statement is a setup because I know we can’t agree to this!)?  Being able to do the “job” (meaning the specific tasks of the functional area you’re a leader for) has very little to do with one’s success at being a leader.  Can we?  And yet, it becomes the first thing we focus on when going to hire a leader.  “Well, how good of a coder were they? How do you expect them to manage coders if they aren’t the best coder?”  You’ve had this conversation haven’t you!?  Most of the best leaders of all time, had very little functional skill of the leadership position they were successful in.  What they did have were these things:

  • Integrity
  • Passion
  • Courage
  • Vision
  • Judgement
  • Empathy
  • Emotional Intelligence

We pick bad leaders because we don’t focus on the traits above.  It doesn’t matter if the person can do the job of those they are managing – great leaders will overcome this fact very easily.  If that’s your biggest worry, they probably won’t be a good leader anyway.  When you have a great leader – the conversation never goes around whether the person can do the job of those they manage – it’s a non-issue.  They can lead and leaders know how to engage those who can do to make their departments great.

3 thoughts on “Why We Pick Bad Leaders

  1. Pingback: 5 for Leadership - Gary Runn

  2. This is a great article – SO TRUE! I wish more people understood this concept. I think we’d have much greater success and satisfied employees if they did.

  3. or we pick bad leaders BECAUSE we focus on those treats. My last teamleader had them all, I thought. He propably just read an article like this, the actor… also men fake 😉

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