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Seven Signs of Poor Leadership

Updated on October 3, 2017

7 Signs of Poor Leadership in an Organization

As business owners how do we know that that our organization is suffering from poor leadership? Do we have the right people in the right positions? This question plagues business owners who may not see the desired results from their management teams. Management teams are the leaders of staff by design. These leaders have the ability to derail entire companies. Unfortunately, most business owners find out too late that they have left the wrong people to run their company. Could they have saved themselves a lot of time and money? YES! There are signs along the way that tell a company who is leading with a purpose verses who is just showing up.

The seven signs you need new leaders;

  1. Leadership does not support the mission statement of the business. Often the management of a business undermines the processes in place for the sake of their own opinions. This can be difficult to detect when a manager is always going to agree with people in upper management. While organizations should expect ingenuity out of their employees, doing things that go against company policy is a sign that a manager is not in line with the mission statement. I saw an example of this at Kohl’s. Kohl’s maintains strict recycling standards. One afternoon I observed a supervisor throwing away clothing hangers that should have been put on a truck to recycle. While the supervisor felt the hangers were in his way, his actions were a sign that his leadership was not supporting the company mission statement. Too often these actions are ignored until the leadership has completely derailed from the company mission statement.
  2. Surprise visits create panic! There is an ironic edge to the fact that district managers allow Managers extra time to "get ready" for a visit. A good management team is always ready for a visit or audit. I firmly maintain that managers who have to put in extra hours to make everything “look good” are not good managers/leaders. It takes just as long to make something look good as it does to do it right from the beginning. If you have leadership that panics, something is not right. District and corporate visits are an opportunity for managers to communicate what is working and not working.
  3. Disgruntled employees. One of the easiest ways to tell if your leadership is up to par is the attitudes of employees. Good Leadership breeds loyal employees. An employee who is valued and treated with respect is not going to be disgruntled. Employee turnover is a sign of disgruntled employees. Excessive late or absent employees is a sign of disgruntled employees. How leadership discusses employees can also indicate if there is a problem. If management is constantly complaining about the employees then there is a problem. After all didn't management hire these employees? Good leaders work with the employees not against them.
  4. Deadlines and goals are not met. I have always found it interesting that there are leaders who embraced goals and seemed to like the challenge where as other leaders seemed discouraged by the goal. When a business is not making its goals there is a problem. An example of this goes back to my first management position when one of the stores in our district was not making their sales goal every week. Eventually it was discovered that the manager was taking excessive time off and the employees were struggling to get everything done without the manager.
  5. Does your leadership understand the business? Good managers can manager anything. They understand basic production, logistics, customer service, and time management. Leadership has to have a solid grasp of the business acumen. How does the company make money? You don’t make money just selling a product. Does your leadership understand where the bulk of the business comes from? Two examples of companies who understand this are Harrah’s who targets the 5% of their customers that produce the most revenue and Kohl’s who targets women as making a majority of buying decisions. These two companies understand their customer base. Your leadership should understand that as well.
  6. Leadership attitudes. Anyone can put on a face through an hour long visit however, what are the attitudes of the leaders? Are they excited to be a part of the organization? Does the leader project positive energy to the team? Would you describe your leaders as “Dynamic”? Better yet, would you hire that person right now? If the answer is no, it’s time to make some changes.
  7. Background. Did you really research the leader’s background? Years ago my husband worked with a young man in the gaming industry. That young man learned the minimum of the job, he was arrogant often causing issues with his lack of knowledge, and was eventually let go for incompetence in his position. The other day this young man’s name came up again as being a speaker for a gaming conference. The funny thing is this young man has been fired from every company he ever worked for because, he still doesn’t know the job. What this young man can do is promote himself. You put this guy in an interview and he makes it sound like he has done everything but, walk on water. He doesn’t have the references to back that up. If your leaders do not come with any type of business references, well maybe they can tell a good story too. Movers and shakers don’t need to self -promote. A good interview question is “tell me about a time when you made a mistake and how you fixed it”. This will determine who you are hiring.

The backlash from poor leadership in your organization becomes evident when you turnover management. I’ve noticed over the years that management turnover reveals a multitude of sins that were carried out by the previous managers. The short list of what I have observed from leaders includes; time card fraud, theft, employee harassment, collusion, unethical practices, the undermining of company policy, a lack of training, and lack of team coaching.

In a perfect world your company leaders show up to work every day energized to take on the tasks at hand, they face challenges with inspiration and conviction. We do not live in a perfect world. You can hold people to certain standards and expectations. You can bring about positive changes in an organization through identifying effective leadership.


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