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  • Writer's pictureNeal McIntyre

Why Your Leadership Team Will Easily Fail You Right When You Need Them

Aspiring to be the boss often stems from pride, accomplishment, ego, authority, or the lure of a higher income. Yet, with this coveted role comes immense responsibility. The hard truth is that as a leader, your success is intricately tied to the effectiveness of your team. A stellar leadership team can elevate a mediocre executive, while a poor team can diminish even the most talented leader

One critical reality is that your leadership team will fail you, and likely when you need them the most. Here’s why:

Wrong People for the Job

In over 20 years of working with organizations, particularly within the government, I’ve observed a disturbing trend: promotions based on political connections rather than qualifications. Often, individuals are promoted due to their closeness to the CEO or their political ties, not their competency. This results in a leadership team ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities of their roles.

For example, in government, it’s not uncommon for underperforming employees to be promoted rather than fired. Similarly, a university president once created a new vice president position just to bring over a friend, leading to disastrous consequences for the institution.

Lack of Honest Feedback

Leadership team members, especially those promoted for political reasons, often struggle to disagree with the CEO. They become "yes men or women," afraid to create conflict. This lack of honest, sometimes brutal, feedback can lead to poor decision-making.

I recall a supervisor at a community college who voiced opposition to a new initiative. The very next day, the provost gave an ultimatum: support the initiative or be demoted. Such environments stifle honest dialogue and critical thinking.

Outdated Leadership Styles

While universities promote innovative research, their administrators often resist incorporating new technologies into classroom settings. This reluctance to embrace change and innovation is prevalent across many organizations. Despite spending over $60 billion annually on leadership development, much of the training is outdated, not reflecting the modern work environment shaped by technology and remote work trends.

Our current leadership paradigms are not just outdated—they’re obsolete. Leadership teams often cling to past practices, uncomfortable with change, and lacking the strategic foresight necessary for today’s dynamic work environment. This is exacerbated by the political nature of many promotions, which fills leadership ranks with individuals ill-equipped for their roles.

The Bottom Line

Leadership teams are frequently set up for failure, and they will fail you when you need them the most. The key to mitigating this risk lies in carefully selecting and developing a competent, honest, and forward-thinking leadership team. As a leader, you must ensure your team is prepared for the challenges of today’s fast-evolving world. How are you setting your leadership team, and yourself, up for continued success?

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