The Importance of Leading: Common Leadership Weaknesses

by | Jan 12, 2012

Excellent new report from McKinsey on the importance of how important leadership is in the workplace. McKinsey looked at nearly 12,000 daily electronic diaries from dozens of professionals working on important innovation projects at seven North American companies. They selected those entries in which diarists mentioned upper- or top-level managers. There are four common leadership weaknesses that the report highlights:

Weakness 1: Mediocrity signals: While the rhetoric is that the organisation is innovation and entrepreneurial, the action of leaders signals complacency and mediocrity. How many time have we seen this happen. One of the challenges, of course, is that managers get promoted not only on their ability to lead, but also on their longevity within the organisation. Do they make great leaders? Not necessarily. Do they promote innovation and entrepreneurship? Why should they. For many, innovation and entrepreneurship equals risk - and why take risk? Mediocrity is a safer, risk-free path.

 Weakness 2: Strategic ‘attention deficit disorder': The survey found too many top managers start and abandon initiatives so frequently that they appear to display a kind of attention deficit disorder (ADD) when it comes to strategy and tactics. They don’t allow sufficient time to discover whether initiatives are working, and they communicate insufficient rationales to their employees when they make strategic shifts.

Weakness 3: Corporate Keystone Kops:  The research found that many executives who think everything is going smoothly in the everyday workings of their organizations are blithely unaware that they preside over their own corporate version of the Keystone Kops - fictional policemen so incompetent that they ran around in circles, mistakenly bashed each other on the head, and fumbled one case after another. Some leaders to the farce through their actions, others by failing to act.

Weakness 4:Misbegotten 'Big, Hairy Audacious Goals': At some companies, however, BHAG statements are grandiose, containing little relevance or meaning for people in the trenches. They can be so extreme as to seem unattainable and so vague as to seem empty. The result is a meaning vacuum. Cynicism rises and drive plummets.

The report concludes: As an executive, you are in a better position than anyone to identify and articulate the higher purpose of what people do within your organization. Make that purpose real, support its achievement through consistent everyday actions, and you will create the meaning that motivates people toward greatness. Along the way, you may find greater meaning in your own work as a leader.

I totally agree: Fixing these common leadership weaknesses is the first step towards building strong leadership to grow and innovative in organisations of any size.

Jeffrey Tobias

About Jeffrey Tobias

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well-known startups.

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Managing Director, The Strategy Group

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well known startups. Jeffrey’s corporate background includes leading global innovation strategy at Cisco, working with large corporates such as Adobe, Westpac, Telstra, Woolworths, and Perpetual.

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