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When you are leading leaders in your company or enterprise, sometimes those leaders go astray and things are not happening as they should. What do you do? First, you need to define the core problem. In my experience, there are three core problem options and your response is essential to enhancing cooperation — the fundamental purpose of leadership. This presumes that you are not the problem, which is a common attribution error. Trusting you are not (that’s another set of posts to come), here are three potential core problems and their appropriate solutions:
Core Problem #1: Poor Leadership
Sometimes leaders simply make a mistake while leading. A mistake could be as simple as not clarifying expectations enough to allow people to be confident in the work, or it could be as damaging as making a promise to one being led and not following through. Both of these are evidence of poor leadership. This is the mildest core problem and can be resolved through leadership coaching and development. Take time with the leader to recognize the mistake, ensure that the need for clarity, trust-building, or whatever the issue is understood, and coach them to lead better. Secure a commitment from the leader to put what agreed to into practice.
Core Problem #2: Lack of Character
It is possible the failure to lead another well is a consequence of the leader’s lack of character. This is a much bigger problem than poor leadership and warrants a different response. Character is a defined profile of habits or dispositions that can be relied upon. One is said to have character when another can say, “Oh, that sounds just like him or her.” Conversely, if those being led are always wondering which person is going to show up, then character is lacking. Since credibility is the foundation of leadership and consistency in habit or disposition is the key to character, a lack thereof disqualifies the person from leading. This does not mean the person needs to leave the employ of the company. But it does mean this person should not be leading until they develop and evidence a predictable profile of habits or dispositions (i.e., character) enough to lead.
The progress of your enterprise is simply too valuable to allow the time and space for character to develop on-the-job. This will hurt the leader being moved in the short term, but not harm them. It is the best step in their development as a healthy person and leader. Hurt can be used for good. Character is a must for effective leadership.
Core Problem #3: Misaligned Values
Sometimes misaligned values are masquerading as a lack of character. In other words, a leader’s values may not align with your personal values or the values of the enterprise. This the most significant problem! It is extraordinarily difficult to change someone’s fundamental values or deep-set emotions or sentiments. The time to do so is a luxury most cannot afford while results continue to wane in your enterprise. This problem is best solved by ending the working relationship with this leader. It’s likely that his or her employees are sick of the unpredictability and they likely know of the misaligned values and are simply waiting for you to act. Don’t let them down. Do what leadership demands of you.
I say often that there is no such thing as an unhealthy organization, only unhealthy people. Organizations don’t behave, people do. Make strong character and aligned values a priority for leadership in your enterprise. In this way you can avoid the two biggest core problems above. Coaching leadership is your job and it’s a form of love for the good of those you lead. Loving at work requires working at love.