The 5 Fatal Leadership Flaws

There are 5 fatal flaws or weaknesses that can severely limit the effectiveness of anyone in a leadership or executive position. Any one of these 5 flaws can lead to failure.

Fatal Weakness One – Insecurities

Insecurities within a person who is in a leadership position result in all sorts of negative behaviors and thinking. These destroy a team and lead to failure. An insecure person is a fearful person. Insecurities and fear are the root causes of such poor management traits as

  • arrogance
  • false pride
  • harsh, intimidating, insulting or nasty styles of management
  • “letting everyone know who’s boss”
  • refusal to seek and encourage ideas from other intelligent, competent professionals
  • inability to inspire or motivate
  • fear of hiring or retaining quality people perceived as better than oneself
  • withholding important information in order to be self-important and in control

Such a person is no leader, even if he or she happens to be in a leadership position. This type of person will ultimately fail and will drive away the best people.

Fatal Weakness Two – Desire or Need To Be Liked

The desire to be liked is an enormous weakness in most people; in a leader, this is a sure road to failure. There are two cousins of this weakness:

  • trying to please everyone
  • caring too much what others think of oneself

The effective leader-manager does not try to please everyone. Trying to please everyone is a guarantee that almost no one will be pleased. Needing to be liked and well thought of results in an unwillingness to make hard decisions, to the degree that the entire group suffers because of some fear or concerns or timidity on the part of the leader-manager.

An executive who cannot take the right action for fear that he or she will be thought less of by others is a weak and failing executive.

The effective leader should care only about making the best decisions and taking the best actions that forward the organization and its people toward their goals and purposes. The effective leader works for the good of the entire group, as this, in turn, will generate the most success, job satisfaction, and professional and financial rewards for most people.

The exceptional leader does not allow anyone’s opinions to prevent him or her from making the right decisions and carrying out the effective actions that are necessary to achieve the organization’s goals.

This attitude takes a unique form of courage.

As a matter of fact, the more successful an individual is, the more critics he or she usually has. Therefore, if you are being successful as a leader, then rejoice if lots of people are criticizing you.

Fatal Weakness Three – Unwillingness to Study and Learn

Competence (the ability to do something successfully or efficiently) is one of the most important qualities in any job, field or position. A very competent person is respected and followed for this one quality alone. Equally important, competence produces excellent end results – and producing excellent end results is the entire reason to do any job or activity in the first place. Leadership and management are no exception. Leader-managers must be competent as leaders and executives.

A high degree of competence demands study and a willingness to learn and grow. A leader who thinks he or she knows all that is needed to know is unwilling to learn new things. Such a person is closed-minded, which in turn limits his or her growth and expertise as a leader.

Fatal Weakness Four – Unwillingness or Inability to Terminate Negative, Counter-Productive or Incompetent People

Each and every decision, action, plan, and training program the leader takes is always from the point of view of What is best for the group? What decision will cause the most good for the most people? Of all possible actions, which one will cause the group to progress toward its goals and purposes the most, with minimum stress and conflict?

A leader who cannot terminate negative, incompetent or detrimental people is condemning all the good people in that group to misery and mental stress. A leader’s duty is to work toward the organization’s goals and purposes, to make decisions and take actions that are best for the organization as a whole. These decisions and actions benefit the most people.

You are actually helping your good people by terminating the ones who are negative, counter-productive, detrimental or incompetent.

The article The Single Biggest Mistake Executives Make covers this point in more detail.

Fatal Weakness Five – Can’t Make or Carry Out a Decision

The only way anything constructive gets done in an organization is for leaders and executives to make decisions and take actions that allow and coordinate their team members to get their work and projects completed. If a leader is indecisive, then the entire team under him or her is unproductive, inefficient, uncertain and stalled. Everyone in such a group will be unhappy, discouraged and dispirited.

Another form of indecision is constantly changing one’s mind. This creates even more stress, confusions, and upsets within the team. People don’t respect a so-called leader who is indecisive or changing his or her mind too often. It’s perfectly fine to change your mind if you receive new information that gives a new or revised picture of the situation, or if the situation or circumstances itself changes. In that case, a change of direction is the correct action.


Any one of these Fatal Five weaknesses will cause a leader to fail in his or her mission to achieve the organization’s goals. None of these five weaknesses has any place in positions of leadership.

Joe Kerner
Joe Kerner
Joe Kerner has been a business owner and management consultant for 30 years. He has worked with hundreds of businesses, business owners and executives, spanning several industries and professions. He is a recognized expert in such areas as leadership, management, organizational development, efficiency, personnel development and training, sales training and business planning. He has helped his client business increase their profitability, growth, efficiency, and productivity. He has consulted and coached businesses in such industries as health care, software development, biotech, construction, financial services, scientific instrument firms, systems analysis, travel, hospitals, and insurance. Joe is also an accomplished speaker and has delivered over 1,100 seminars and workshops covering such areas as leadership and management, operations, personnel development, and efficiency. In 1998, Joe was a co-founder of a very successful health care group in Virginia and North Carolina. He served as Vice President of Operations and managed the entire group. Under his leadership, this group increased revenue by 300-400% within three years. This group was sold for a high profit in 2013. Joe holds a Master of Science degree in Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. He has also completed an extensive and rigorous management training program, the Organization Executive Course. This is an intensive 2,000-hour curriculum covering the fundamental principles, technology and advanced systems of management, leadership, organization, executive training, personnel development and management, management tools, marketing, and sales.


  1. Very solid discussion points Joe, I have nothing new to add. I have been exposed to your point of leadership being indecisive and this created a great deal of instability and fracturing of the team. It feels like you have had a great deal of experience in your 30 years of business experience that has brought you to the point of cultivating your list. Thank you for passing on your wisdom.



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