Negative Leadership, Lacking the Traits.

Years ago, I transferred out of a department where the manager was a leadership failure. In fact, he was considered a poor leader by the senior leadership team. Unfortunately, due to his strong political alliances, he was able to keep his job and survive. There are many known traits of a leader, some are defined by theorists, and this person lacked every single one. Trait theory defines five key attributes of a leader: Capacity, Achievement, Responsibility, Participation, and Status. Let’s agree to take some literary license here and call him “Bob Blank”.

Capacity:   Bob Blank lacked the basic qualities for capacity as a leader. When presented with challenges to solve, he consistently sought inward looking solutions. When offered alternatives, his pattern was to either ignore it or alter the solution so that it no longer resembled the original idea. He often did not pay attention to details. When told of a large group moving into a facility under his control, he thought the information was a joke, and actually laughed. He consistently ignored other commonplace problems, such as staffing, until they became so out of control, they were brought to the attention of the VP.

Achievement:   Bob Blank’s leadership achievements are suspect.  Bob’s degree has nothin g to do with his career path, and it is not clear how that degree qualifies him for the roles he held in Business Development or Finance. As far as subject matter expertise, it quickly became apparent that he lacked basic understanding of new business acquisition. He consistently requested that he be provided with many examples of job descriptions, status charts, and many other materials. His “knowledge” proved to be very limited.

Responsibility:  I came to believe over time that Bob Blank possessed no leadership responsibility. Any initiative that Bob took was usually taken in order to make it look like he had an idea, when more often than not, that idea was lifted from somebody else. An employee attended a corporate-wide forum on initiating a management training program. When the employeereturned, Bob quickly presented the idea to the VP, and was named the company representative to initiate the program locally. That employee contacted the VP with the idea – to institute a pilot program at one site, and issue certificates of completion in a short period of time. The VP told the employee that since Bob Blank was already involved, he “discouraged” the employee from doing taking on the initiative. Not surprisingly, the program never took off.

Participation:   Bob Blank seldom if ever was able to express leadership participation. He seldom conducted staff meetings; there was never a “team” social event or consistent communication among the team members from him. By contrast, the previous manager of that department regularly held staff meetings at rotating sites and made sure he took everyone out to lunch or dinner.

Status:  Bob Blank’s leadership star has finally crashed and burned. A new manager was hired to replace him and that new manager was quite surprised and disappointed to learn that I had already  left his department.Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL, ICF-PCC, SHRM-SCP, EAPA

Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL, ICF-PCC, SHRM-SCP,  EAPA

Six Sigma Spet, Certified IPT Leader, Certified Contracts Manager

Helping good leaders get even better through positive behavior change.


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