The Ten Fatal Flaws That Derail Leaders June Harvard Business Review: Are We in Denial?

Have you read the pithy one page article entitled “The Ten Fatal Flaws That Derail Leaders” in the June 2009 Harvard Business review?  I quickly skimmed the flaws to see if I had any of them.  At first I was relieved.  While I can be pretty hard on myself, I didn’t think I had any of these flaws.  But the authors’ closing comments caused me to reconsider.  “But the ineffective leaders we studied were often unaware that they exhibited any of these behaviors.  In fact those who were rated most negatively rated themselves substantially more positively. Leaders should take a very hard look at themselves and ask for candid feedback on performance in these specific areas.  Their jobs may depend on it.”   Denial is a dangerous thing.

I read the ten flaws a bit more thoughtfully and my conclusions the second time were sobering. For each behavior,  I took the time to think about things I had done or had not done in the last two weeks that a third party might view as examples of “flawed” leadership behavior.  I was able to recall at least one example for each of the ten flaws.  While this doesn’t necessarily mean I am a hopelessly flawed leader, it made me own up to the fact that I regularly exhibit sub optimal leadership behavior.  This exercise made me realize that seemingly small transgressions that I excuse because I am busy (and a leader – see the Toxic Tandem in the same issue of HBR), when seen objectively, are powerful examples of poor leadership and they add up.  Maybe going through this exercise will help you identify some areas in which you could raise your game and improve your image as a manager and a leader!

The Ten Fatal Flaws by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman

  1. Lack of energy and enthusiasm
  2. Accept their own mediocre performance
  3. Lack clear vision
  4. Have poor judgement
  5. Don’t collaborate
  6. Don’t walk the talk
  7. Resist new ideas
  8. Don’t learn from mistakes
  9. Lack interpersonal skills
  10. Fail to develop others