The Dysfunctional Leader

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The Dysfunctional Leader

The Idea: Gary Hamel, one of the world’s leading experts on business strategy believes, “What ultimately constrains the performance of your organization is not its business model, nor its operating model, but its management model.” I live In Chicago, where two of the largest church networks in the country have fallen to sexual harassment charges and financial indiscretions. Meanwhile, the tech world is littered with technically gifted, charismatic, and entrepreneurial founders who lack wisdom. The newest member of this club is Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, whose dream of revolutionizing blood-testing technology turned to nightmare, capturing the attention of many. She joins Travis Kalanick (accused of building a toxic workplace at Uber), and Mark Zuckerberg (who continues to lose credibility by not regulating Facebook). The spotlight hits these leaders because they are gifted at painting grand visions yet lack self-regulation. We are shocked when scandals plague these firms, but the signs were there all along. Does leadership matter in a world that is more transactional than ever before?

Leadership is easy to fake, and many executives skillfully create the image of leading a purpose-driven organization without doing so. Most importantly, lack of leadership health – whether it be anger issues, passive aggression, abrasiveness, narcissism, compulsiveness, or impulsiveness – manifests in incredibly toxic ways:

    – 4 of 10 workers have been physically or psychologically abused by a boss in their career

    – 6 of 10 workers would rather have a new boss over a pay raise

    – 3 of 4 employees share that their boss is the most stressful part of their job

These problems understandably bleed into everything we touch. A comprehensive workplace study shows that almost 75 percent of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional, struggling with budget management, staying on schedule, meeting customer expectations, and maintaining alignment with their organization’s goals.

Why are 7 of 10 American workers checked out and actively looking for new work? In a recent Workplace Health Survey, these employees stated they did not receive proper recognition, were hindered by trivial activities and micromanagement, or felt isolated on the job because of an unhelpful and hostile environment.

What are the behaviors of the leaders creating healthy, high performing cultures?

The most trusted leaders are value-driven and emotionally connected to the soul of their employees. The report cites the best organizations (and leaders) look outward, taking the time to understand the longer-term dreams of their associates. This dramatically increases loyalty and performance. By taking the time to empathize and understand their associate’s personal values and aspirations, commitment to the leader’s vision will follow. When leaders listen to and advocate for members of their team, their coaching is easily received by their associates.

Dysfunctional managers spend too much time trying to garner support for their own agenda. A friend recently shared: “My boss doesn’t recognize that I am struggling in my personal life. She is blind as to how it’s impacting my focus, morale, and even my performance. She doesn’t have a clue and prefers to keep our discussions business-oriented and never personal. This lack of trust and fear is frankly demoralizing to me.” How can any leader afford to not invest emotionally with business partners, employees, and peers? We should all be connecting more with one another: listening to, empathizing with, and advocating for our colleagues.

Do you know the long-term personal goals of the members of your team? Not their business goals, but personal goals. What do they dream about? Business, like any other contact sport, is relational. The most sustainable, impactful, and healthy leaders build relationships with others. They are givers, not takers.

How do you know if you are a healthy manager?

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