Why Do Leaders Fail?


It doesn’t matter if it is in corporate America, politics or the local PTA, leadership is leadership and the same principles apply. There is a leadership crisis happening and it will only continue to get worse if something isn’t done; but before action can be taken we have to understand the impact and what is going on.

Manager, supervisors and others are not being prepared for leadership roles before they are hired, promoted or elected and are more often than not left to figure it out on their own. In most organizations the criteria for someone to be a leader is typically based on attributes that have little or nothing to do with leadership. While having technical ability, sales skills or business aptitude is important, these are not all the is needed to be a successful leader.

Consider these statistics

“Sixty percent of organizations are facing a shortage of readily available leadership skills” –Aberdeen Group report
“Sixty percent of new managers fail within the first 24 months” –Corporate Executive Board
“Forty-seven percent of new supervisors receive no supervisor training” –HR.com and I4CP

More often than not even when a manager has a proven track record they fail because of things outside of their control. These include the lack of direction, support and continual development by their own management and organization.

For new managers, it is often the case that they were chosen based on “potential” and then after they are anointed “management” they are simply sent off to be successful with little or no guidance, tools or resources needed to be successful. When they fail everyone scratches their heads and wonders why. Existing leaders either don’t know better or have never been held accountable to a higher set of expectations and standards.

There are some things organizations can do to avoid this.

First, organizations must decide what “Leadership” means to them. If it just ensuring that the work gets done no matter the means the process can end there. Defining what leadership means in an organization requires looking beyond the technical skills and focusing on the social, interpersonal, cultural skills and the aptitude needed.

Choosing leaders with more than technical skills requires asking the right questions and assessing personality and culture fit within the organization. Setting expectations of what leadership looks like begins even before they are hired or promoted. Expectations must align with, support and promote the culture because at some point potential and existing leaders are going to need to see what the expected behaviors look like. How do they communicate, treat those below them, and establish trust?

Once they are hired, training needs to be provided even for those who have previously held leadership positions. Even with a proven track record of leadership skills new leaders need to know how it is “done here” to avoid the cultural and political pitfalls that exist in every organization.

Lastly, there needs to be accountability when leaders do not meet the expectations of their roles, ineffectively communicate or treat people poorly. Failure to do so sends a message throughout the organization that the culture and values do not matter and a title exempts you.

Organizations need to remember that managers are employees; just because they have more responsibility and accountability they need the same training, guidance, feedback and support that non-management employee’s need.

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Anthony T. Eaton
Anthony T. Eatonhttps://interviewsandmore.com/
ANTHONY is a seasoned, certified Human Resources professional with more than twenty years of experience working in a range of industries including non-profit, banking, utilities and government. In addition, he is an accomplished leader and author with a passion for personal and professional leadership and development. Believing that every person has the opportunity and potential to lead, his focus is on helping others be the best leaders they can no matter who they are or position they hold. In 2013 Anthony took his leadership message online with a blog. Initially posting an inspirational quote of the day he then began doing interviews with a wide range of individuals from diverse background about their personal journey, leadership experiences, and thoughts. In 2015 he created a website and added feature articles, a second interview series WOMEN ON LEADERSHIP along with a book review. In 2016 he published his first book LEADERSHIP CONVERSATIONS, a series of interviews on leadership and more. Anthony’s purpose is to inspire and motivate others by initiating conversations about what it means to be a leader in the broadest sense of the word.


  1. This seems to be an epidemic. I have run across more managers than leaders in the last 4 years. I have read countless articles on what makes up a leader. You have hit it on the head that so many get promoted due to potential and then dropped there to hopefully succeed.