Avoid These Pitfalls If You Head Up an Enterprise

Here Are Four Signs That a Leader Is on the Road to Failure

By Harvard Business Review
December 22, 2017

The appointment of leaders unprepared to meet the challenges of a senior role fuels the risk of an executional catastrophe.

In 2016, it was estimated that 67 percent of well-formulated strategies failed due to poor execution. The appointment of leaders unprepared to meet the challenges of a senior leadership role fuels the risk of executional failure.

The work required to effectively craft and execute a company strategy is extraordinarily difficult, and organizations need to invest in preparing executives for the real requirements of their roles.

Here are four of the most common signs that a leader is likely to fail:

They lack depth in their competitive context: Taking on broader leadership roles usually results in greater insularity for leaders. Their focus is pulled toward internal issues, so they pay less attention to external strategic issues. When leaders fail to understand the competitive context of their organizations, they sometimes hide behind unrealistic goals to overcompensate.

They are dishonest or naive about trade-offs: Most leaders struggle to understand the implications of not making effective trade-offs. Diluting the focus of an organization by overcommitting resources institutionalizes mediocrity and cynicism.

They leave old organizational designs in place: An organizational design is the living embodiment of the company’s strategy. You should be able to look at how the organization is put together and instantly detect what it is trying to accomplish. Great leaders become organization architects, taking a systemic look at capabilities and building them into the organizational machine expressly designed for a particular strategy.

They can’t handle the emotional toll: For many leaders, the taxing nature of enterprise-level leadership is too great. While some thrive on the challenges inherent in the trailblazing work of strategy, many simply collapse under the emotional toll it takes.

Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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