Why do leaders fail frequently?

How bad leaders damage the image of management and executives.

Layoffs are part of an organisation’s history.

Photo by Kind and Curious on Unsplash

Unpredictability, not only from the pandemic, seasonal business, changing business models and the highly fluctuating needs of the market, can be the reason an organisation has to decide to cut staff. Would you think of laying off 800 people in a zoom meeting to replace them with people working for less money immediately? No? Unfortunately, this behaviour has become increasingly present in the recent past. The image of irresponsible management manifests itself in the image of countless employees.

How is it possible that leadership misconduct occurs over and over again?

The case of P&O

The CEO of P&O Ferries, a well-known logistics, ferry and cruise company based in the UK, Peter Hebblethwaite, decided to make a big announcement. It was not to be an insolvency announcement. The pandemic is ending, and P&O Ferries is ready for the future. The CEO dismissed 800 staff still on board of the company’s ships via an online call in the announcement. The occupation of the vessels with massive escalation was the result. However, this was not the end of the misconduct. P&O Ferries broke the law with this action, as the guaranteed right of employees to have a say was not taken into account. When summoned to Parliament, the CEO acknowledged the breach of the law but stood by his decision and stated that he would do it again at any time.

This behaviour is a new quality of executive misconduct. In the heart of democracy, when summoned to Parliament, a CEO talking to democratically elected MPs openly states that laws are being ignored and makes no secret that they would do it again. Two P&O Ferries ferries have now been detained. The company is facing its most serious crisis.

Limits of leadership

Leadership, whatever the situation, has certain limits which, without exception, must always be respected. Thus, there are specific ways of executive decision-making that are never available as an option:

1) Deliberate breach of the law. (I did not expect I would have to mention this in an article).

2) Obvious breaches of ethics and moral standards. (Yes, ethics and morals are personal and certainly culturally different, but the above scenario, for example, is not acceptable under any circumstances).

3) Endangering life.

Outstanding leadership is learned, not inherited, or otherwise mysteriously received. There are no born leaders, even though some people would like to keep telling themselves there are. The story of the “born leader” leading an organisation for the company always sounds enticing. Leadership is learned and refined as well as improved through practical support.

Leadership misconduct must be sanctioned in the same way as employee misconduct. If misconduct is accepted without comment, followed by no or only insufficient consequences, you create an effect far beyond the organisation. Even today, people in management generally enjoy little to no trust and have to work to gain trust, which may take years.

How to act?

Therefore, as an organisation, it is critical today to be proactive in shaping the leadership culture. Excellent training and ongoing education are only part of this. Proactively shape your image as a job-providing organisation. Employer branding is a central aspect of today’s recruiting strategies. Conduct regular feedback rounds and also deal with criticism openly. Try not to blame employees when the issue is addressed is not their fault.

A sustainable organisation, especially in a world where aspects such as Remote Work, Work From Home or Work From Anywhere have become the norm, needs to position itself to counter the omnipresent negative influences proactively.

More about leadership failure and the possible countermeasures in this week’s podcast: click here to listen and learn.

Excellent leadership is important for you?
Let’s talk: NB@NB-Networks.com.



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Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt is in business since 1998. Helping managers to become better leaders by mastering the concept of Sustainable Leadership. Based in Spain & London.