The Impact of Weak Leadership on Teams and Organizations
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Sometimes, leadership walks a fine line between success and failure. It’s a concept that is somewhat elusive. You know when it’s there and sure as anything when it’s not. According to the Gallup State of the American Worker Report, only 10 percent have the raw talent to lead.
However, that doesn’t mean organizations must only rely on born leaders. Instead, companies must learn the importance of finding the right fit for the position. They must nurture leadership skills or otherwise face the repercussions of unwise choices. Awareness is the first step on the road to positive change.
The Consequences of Weak Leadership
It’s essential to understand that a leadership crisis is rarely just one person bringing down an organization. More often than not, the blame lies with management and staff. Everyone needs to own it. The common denominator on both sides of the equation. Research has shown that only 30 percent of employees are engaged.
However, is it any wonder when only 35 percent of managers are engaged?
Disengagement comes at a cost. Estimates of lost worker productivity range up to $605 billion. Disengaged management adds roughly $398 billion annually. Moreover, it’s not just money. It also includes a weak corporate culture with the potential to descend into a toxic workplace if leadership accountability is absent.
Management faces a formidable barrier, with aftershocks already reverberating in the work environment. An estimated 93 percent of organizations are concerned about rising attrition rates. Who can blame the employees when 76 percent report routinely feeling burned out and stressed on the job? Compounding the problem is the inability to attract top talent to overcome these issues.
Other telltale signs of mishandled leadership challenges are decision avoidance and inconsistency. Employees lack the stability and security that makes them want to come to work each day. A lack of trust prevails with declining confidence in the organization. Leadership failures couldn’t come at a higher price. However, it’s not just the individual who suffers.
The Impact on Teams
It’s a fair assumption that leadership sets the tone, whether it’s weak or strong. Employee morale hinges on their leadership styles and the skills they bring to the table. Too often, managers wear blinders. They fail to notice when their teams are overworked. A ripple effect exists. Workers don’t feel psychologically safe to voice their concerns. It becomes a matter of day-to-day survival for them.
Instead of being engaged, they withdraw. They don’t go the extra mile and embrace quiet quitting. Resentment builds when personal accountability seems out to lunch. It worsens if an individual can’t leave their job and move on to a better situation. A fixated mindset takes over that morphs into a quiet constraint. Withholding information replaces sharing knowledge.
It behooves managers to recognize the warning signs of organizational stress. It’s part of the toolbox of leadership skills. The consequences of failing to notice them and act can weaken the foundation of the culture of collaboration. It’s too costly for leadership not to implement the lessons learned from the pandemic and its workplace consequences.
Part of the problem rests with a lack of leadership development. The sad reality is that 82 percent of managers are miscast in their roles because they don’t have the right skill set for the position. Unfortunately, these issues rarely stay in one department. The effects of weak leadership are cancer in an organization. Teams suffer from a lack of direction and cohesion. Miscommunication is rampant.
The Impact on Organizations
A successful organization has a well-defined mission and set of key objectives supporting it. Meeting goals should be par for the course. When weak leadership oversees a company, your results are mixed. Without the leadership traits to motivate your staff, your teams will underperform. They won’t reach their potential. The impact will show up in your bottom line.
Few organizations are that secure to endure this situation for long.
Leadership theories remind us that trust and cohesiveness are imperative for success. Instead of fostering employee engagement, companies are vulnerable to headwinds. The lack of clear communication and strong leadership leaves an organization unable to pivot when economic and market influences topple the proverbial apple cart. A lack of flexibility is an inability to adapt.
A lack of leadership training shows in damaged reputations. It’s imperative for organizations to understand the long-term costs. Research shows that 86 percent of consumers will abandon a trusted brand after a bad experience. It’s the product of weak leadership failing to motivate the employees to do their best. Poor customer service is collateral damage.
Overcoming Weak Leadership
Overcoming weak leadership requires a three-pronged approach. It starts at the top with the people you’ve put in charge of your organization. It also involves building strong teams that focus on growing your culture of collaboration. Finally, you must create a foundation of accountability and transparency. Taking these vital steps will empower everyone in your company.
Developing Strong Leadership
We discussed how some individuals are born leaders. They don’t avoid problems. They address them. Experience is the secret sauce, but it comes in many forms. It equips one with the necessary industry knowledge for problem-solving that arises from understanding. It also teaches a potential leader to rely on critical thinking, whether it’s for conflict resolution or making the right decision.
Desirable leadership qualities are the crux of a strong corporate culture. A good leader is authentic. They know they don’t know everything and are willing to admit it. They also embrace lifelong learning. Coaching and mentoring can nurture these traits. Interestingly, it goes beyond the C-suite. Research has shown that 94 percent of employees value it enough to keep them at a job.
Successful leaders are self-aware. They know their strengths and weaknesses. It allows them to recruit talent to fill in the gaps without feeling threatened by their skills. The journey of self discovery encourages confidence that comes through acceptance. Good leaders build great teams.
Emotional intelligence is the most important quality for leadership improvement. It involves recognizing your emotions and having the ability to self-regulate. The latter allows them to accept feedback even if it’s not what they expected. They respect their staff and will not criticize people publicly. They practice active listening. Perhaps nothing exemplifies emotional intelligence more than letting others speak.
Strong leaders are also empathetic. They understand the mental health needs of their staff. We all have our struggles and challenges. We don’t leave them at home when we go to work. Humans are emotional creatures. We feel things deeply. While some people can compartmentalize things, most of us wear them on our sleeves. Luckily, leaders have realized the significance of PTO for their staff.
Contrast these traits with signs of weak leadership. These individuals fail to recognize the accomplishments of their employees. They don’t care if they’re overworked or under-compensated. They ignore the signs of burnout in their workers. Their team members struggle without clear expectations or constructive feedback.
Investing in leadership training and cultivating talents has its rewards. Managers are more likely to be engaged, which translates into improved employee performance. Roughly 66 percent of workers are, in turn, engaged.
Team Building at Its Best
Armed with leadership qualities, these individuals can build solid teams. Remember that a leader is an organization’s cheerleader, encouraging people to keep striving and doing their best. They must play many roles with the emotional intelligence to realize what approach is most appropriate for the situation.
The elements of a strong team include the following:
- Mutual respect
- Psychologically safe workplace
- Clear communication
It’s worth noting that these factors depend upon a good leader. Often, it’s a matter of leading by example. The traits become a part of the social fabric of the team. It also means not just talking the talk but walking the walk. A reliable and consistent leader makes it possible. However, the onus also rests with the team members.
Everyone has a role to play, regardless of the effectiveness of the leadership. A good team player doesn’t sit around passively letting it devolve into a toxic work environment. They take control of what they can change. That could mean soliciting feedback from your manager. If you want training or a different workload, speak up and say something. Leaders often anticipate things, but they’re not mind-readers.
An employee must take a stake in their job satisfaction. A good leader encourages an open-door policy. Resentment from an inability to express oneself freely can quickly descend into an insurmountable barrier. The takeaway is that successful leaders must create the atmosphere to make strong teams possible.
Corporate Culture With Accountability
Several pieces come into play when considering the corporate culture. It starts with leadership accountability in the areas we’ve discussed. A good leader makes good on their promises. You may find it helpful to write them down with dates for follow-up. It sets an excellent example to inspire your employees.
Strive to earn the praise that you are a person of your word.
Clear communication is a must-have. It involves building relationships with your direct reports with weekly check-ins. It is a great way to prevent those nasty surprises. You should develop career paths and training with your employees included in the process. Remember that it’s an essential factor in job satisfaction. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to cultivate rapport with your people.
Feedback is a vital part of effective communication. It provides a proactive way to prevent burnout. Ask your employees if their workloads are manageable. Give them the extra time or support they need to meet their goals. People want to succeed. Nurture the corporate culture that makes it happen. Encourage your staff to share their ideas.
We’re still sifting through the aftermath of the pandemic and its effects on the workplace. Perhaps it’s as good a time as any to reassess your office environment. It’s worth noting that many liked the taste of remote work. Many companies are investigating a four-day workweek to manage employee burnout. Many organizations are uncertain if they’ll embrace a hybrid workplace permanently or not.
A few things are clear. Organizations must create an environment for collaboration. That means tearing down the vertical silos that hamper interdepartmental communication. They must see the value of the sum of their parts instead of teams acting independently. That act alone can build stronger relationships and offer more opportunities for staff to support each other.
The corporate culture also needs a shared vision. Transparency is a critical part of it. Everyone should understand their contribution to the mission. The employees become stakeholders with skin in the game. It’s hard to overestimate how empowering and motivating it is. It is the true north to keep everyone on course.
Remember that part of the Great Resignation involved individuals considering how worthwhile their jobs were to their lives and society. A shared vision with corporate transparency is more important than ever in today’s evolving workplace. Unsurprisingly, it’s also critical to the consumer. Organizations are well-advised to make strong leadership the highest priority.
Weak leadership is always a hindrance. However, the pandemic made it clear that corporate America could not survive the consequences of ill-prepared, inflexible management. Too much is at stake since the repercussions can strike organizations to the core. Companies must invest the time and effort to find top talent. They must also provide training and coaching to keep them.
Success is the reward for organizations that understand it. There’s much to be said for consistent and reliable leadership to help businesses weather the unexpected. Kutsko Consulting can help. Our team is ready with effective coaching and leadership development courses. We can help you assess your team and create a plan for success. Check out our free preview course today.
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