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Five Ways Leaders Destroy Companies

Five Ways Leaders Destroy Companies


Success is a team sport. It takes the entire team, from entry level employees all the way up the ladder to the executive suite, to run the company engine on all cylinders.

The environmental factors leading to a company’s failure, on the other hand, typically flows down from the top. It is unfortunate the number of senior executives ready, willing and able to quickly assign the blame of failure squarely on employees. However, the entire workforce doesn’t show up to work and uniformly decide to screw up the company. The common scenario is that leadership begins to make decisions that begin to negatively alter the course of the organization, ultimately leading to its demise.

What are leadership actions that are potential signals the company is headed for trouble? Here are some clues your company could be headed for rough waters.

#1 – Me, Me, Me: When leadership decisions are guided by “what’s in it for me?” This is a sign leaders are less interested in the long-term viability of a company and more interested in their own personal short-term gain. If this is happening it’s like working at Titanic Inc. A good indication this is happening is when company decisions are made based on how it will affect executive compensation and their incentive payouts.

#2 – Communicate is a Four Syllable Word: When the leadership starts to communicate with employees on a “need to know” basis, start running for the exits. When employees read important company news in the newspaper rather than the company newsletter, develop an exit strategy. A lack of communication typically indicates leaders are hiding bad news, making decisions without sufficient input, or possibly courting a new buyer for the company, unaware of the financial benefits of teamwork, making a play on a new company with excessive staff levels, or simply do not like people and avoid employees at all cost.

#3 – Executive Bullies at Work Here: One time I was told by the president it was my fault there was bad Karma in the company. Funny thing I was not the one yelling, screaming and cursing at employees on a daily basis. Employees were being physically and mentally destroyed by an executive bully and I wanted to put a stop to it. As a result, I became the bad guy for trying to curtail an out-of-control executive’s behavior. Now I was considered disloyal to the company. My career was put on ice by a new supervisor where frustrating my every move was his daily goal.

#4 – Lack of Vision: When senior leadership does not make time to adequately explain the vision and mission of a company, employees will lose interest in the company and not engage in the important work of the company. Sometimes executives are afraid they will share their valuable secrets if they talk to employees about their mission, vision and values. Some executives think employees should just know this stuff without the president taking time to explain it. “If you are so smart, why do I have to explain this human resource crap to you,” is the general feeling. People perish due to a lack of vision, states the scriptures. Companies file Chapter 11 due to lack of vision.

And #5 – Who is the President? Besides the need to trust and respect their leaders, employees need to know who is running the company. I once worked at a company where the president was rarely seen walking around in the office. We would go months and months before seeing him. There is a comfort feeling knowing you have an active, engaged president who cares for employees at the helm of the ship. If the president is rarely seen and seldom walks around to visit with employees – except for maybe the Christmas Party – this could be quite unsettling to the workforce. This same president loved to meet with local charities and press gatherings but avoided his own employees. It’s like a football coach going absent from practice and the sidelines during games and only appearing in front of the team when it is time for the news conference. If you have leaders who hide in their execu-caves, the next thing missing might be your paycheck.

Kevin Kennemer is founder of The People Group based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Kevin is driven by his passion for company owners and their need to earn a profit, employees' desire for a positive and fulfilling work experience, and the community that benefits when both groups do well.

1 Comment

  1. Ali Anani 15 years ago

    I fully concur with this article. The trust equation says that trust is positively proportional to credibility, reliability, intimacy and inversely proportional to selfishness (the I factor). Your article explains the equation ably.

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