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6 Reasons Leaders Make Bad Decisions

Employees are growing noticeably more frustrated with their leaders. Employees want their leaders to have their backs and listen to their concerns; to provide clarity of purpose and performance expectations; and to chart a roadmap for the future. They expect leadership from their leaders – but instead many employees are finding themselves being led by people that lack focus and vision, mismanage resources, and get caught-up in corporate politics. Leaders need to step up their game and begin to provide the required strategic support and direction to keep their employees motivated and their teams inspired.

Leadership is not for everyone and this quickly becomes evident when leaders make bad decisions. Unfortunately, many organizations promote people into leadership positions – where they don’t really belong – for the wrong reasons. Employees can sense this. They know when someone is not ready for leadership responsibilities and increased levels of accountability. Employees are aware of those that assume the role of “corporate watchdog” (to assure the workplace culture that is being dictated from the top is being adhered too) versus action-oriented leaders with real authority.

Employees are inspired when their leaders are empowered to make good, thoughtful and smart decisions. They respect leaders taking calculated risks, not those merely serving as another layer of management – an additional “go-between” that stunts growth and opportunity. Furthermore, when leaders make bad decisions, their employees begin to lose confidence in them and trust decreases, especially when their poor decision-making patterns don’t change.

I once reported to a leader that “played the part” – but didn’t trust himself enough to serve in the role of a leader you could consistently rely upon. This person spent a lot of time observing what the more tenured leaders did in the organization, mimicking their ways and styles. You could see it during meetings, even when the other leaders were not in the room. He didn’t appear to be a natural leader and had a difficult time establishing his own identity and leadership credibility.

Of course, this made everyone on the team uncertain about how to approach him and made the lines of communication disjointed. As a result, he began to make bad decisions, people lost confidence in his ability to lead and top talent was lost along the way. Needless to say, performance declined rapidly and the team became uninspired. Employees began to question senior management because of their decision to support a person that brought the team down and never made the effort to build the right kind of relationships with the people that mattered most: his direct reports who could help him make better decisions and be successful for the long-term.

This person focused more on trying to impress the leadership incumbents, satisfying political agendas and building internal networks that didn’t matter to the performance of the team he was responsible to lead. His tenure ended after a long drawn-out 6 months of wasted time and poor leadership.

Employees want leaders that can help them grow professionally and that have the influence to advance their careers over time. These are the types of leaders that know how to advance themselves naturally and become part of the high-potential establishment. They are leaders that know how to organically manage from within the corporate culture, maximize resources, motivate, inspire and – most importantly – make good, sound decisions.

Leaders that are focused on their own hidden agendas lose sight of the bigger picture, quickly get disconnected from their employees and fail to build a team that lasts. They make bad decisions on complicated issues with the intention of advancing their own agendas and career ambitions first.

To help you identify those leaders that are not ready for their leadership roles and are prone to fall into the trap of making bad decisions, be on the look-out for the following six behavioral patterns:

1. Rely Too Much on Past Experience

Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business professor Sydney Finkelstein has studied decision-making and written about it in his book, Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep it From Happening to You. Mr. Finkelstein says in a 2009 Wall Street Journal article that, “Leaders tend to rely on past experience that seems useful, but is actually sometimes dangerous. We always talk about how important experience is. I think we overstate experience, because it doesn’t exactly fit the situation you’re in. You’re liable to rely on it in a way that’s just not going to be that helpful.”

This explains why leaders have a difficult time transferring their prior success to a new company. Just because you have a track record of prior success doesn’t mean that it will apply within your current organization. As such, leaders need to be mindful of the workplace conditions, co-workers, resources and how to create momentum in a new environment. They need to know where the potholes are located and how leaders have been historically successful in the organization they are now serving.

Don’t force your methods expecting the same results from the past. Respect your current employer and the dynamics of the workplace; otherwise you will make bad decisions.

2. Addicted to Corporate Politics

Do you have a leader that is politically motivated? Unfortunately, this is all too common and results in bad decision making and a short-lived tenure. Political motivations make it difficult to make objective decisions and manage the core responsibilities at hand. Those leaders that have fallen victim to the political trap lose their identity and get sucked into other people’s agendas and motives. Most of the time these motives don’t align with their beliefs and thus over time they find themselves making poor decisions to keep a bad relationship alive (though at the time the leader believes it is a good decision to enhance a politically-connected relationship).

In an attempt to advance themselves, leaders can get addicted to corporate politics. They become blind by the addiction and lose sight of their primary role and responsibilities as a leader, in many cases unknowingly putting their direct reports and teams into quicksand – making it almost impossible to revive any positive momentum and trust from the employees that depend upon them.

3. Lack Clarity of Purpose

When you don’t know what you stand for, it becomes more difficult to make good decisions. Much like falling into the trap of corporate politics, when you “feel in your gut” that you have lost touch with your core values and believe they no longer align with your senior leadership team – you begin to make bad decisions.

Clarity of purpose allows you to make decisions that are true and consistent with the mission at hand. When purpose becomes disrupted, you lose touch with your instincts and begin to make decisions without the right dependencies and resources you need to make sound decisions.

Don’t let your decision making capabilities erode because you have allowed yourself to lose touch with your values.

4. Mismanage Resources

The ineffective use and understanding of the resources at your disposal makes it difficult to be a good decision maker. Leaders that jump right into the job, rather than take the time to become familiar with their resources, will find it challenging to be in lock-step with their role and responsibilities. Leading isn’t just about motivating people and inspiring teams – it also requires you to know the tools and resources that are available and/or need to be acquired to compete.

Leaders that make good decisions are continuously improving their playbook of resources. They strengthen their ability to gain access to the right information, statistics, trends and insights available from great resources – and know when to engage them in order to make timely decisions that positively impact the greater good.

5. Don’t See the Opportunity

Leaders that don’t see the opportunities before them make bad decisions. They lack what I call circular vision – the ability to see opportunity in everything. Wide-angle, circular vision makes leaders proficient at anticipating crisis and managing change before circumstances force their hand. It broadens their observation and allows them to see around, beneath and beyond the obvious detail before them.

When you can see opportunity in everything, it allows you to more easily connect the dots and anticipate what lies ahead after each decision that you make.

6. Don’t Trust Themselves to Lead

If you are a leader that consistently employs the first five behavioral tendencies, it makes it very difficult to consistently trust yourself to lead – thus you will begin to make bad and uninformed decisions.

Leaders that don’t trust themselves enough become desperate and make abrupt decisions. They don’t think about the consequences when they make their decisions for the wrong reasons.

Do you trust yourself enough as a leader to adapt to the changing workplace? Do you embrace diversity and the generational shift and modify your style and approach when necessary? Does the fiercely competitive and changing marketplace affect your ability to effectively lead and make the right decisions?

Perhaps you are a leader that has enjoyed success in the past. This doesn’t mean that you will successfully sustain your momentum. You must continue to improve your skills, know your competition, invest in your professional development, elevate the quality of your mentors – and partake in anything that leadership requires for you to continuously mature and gather wisdom along the way.

How can you make good decisions if you are not growing – and only relying on the track record that got you to where you are today?

Many great leaders begin to lose self-trust as they fail – and don’t focus on making themselves better. Don’t fall into this trap!
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Glenn Llopis, Contributor
I share the immigrant perspective on leadership & workplace innovation
http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2013/05/28/6-reasons-leaders-make-bad-decisions/