5 Reasons Leaders Crash and Burn

Can you recall when a supervisor/manager/CEO in charge of a business, committee or project caused everything to derail?


Why does this happen?

  1. They Aren’t Natural Born Leaders

Leadership comes pre-loaded in some people. They’re the ones everyone turns to when a decision needs to be made. They step in and say “Here’s what we should do…” in a crisis. Of course, they can always be better leaders by learning more about how to be effective, but it’s in their DNA. If they don’t recognize they are natural born leaders, they might walk through life wondering “Why does everyone always want me to be in charge?” It’s simply been a fact of life for them.


For those who have had leadership bestowed upon them and don’t have a clue how to be a leader, it’s different. They have to learn how to do it. Many times, unfortunately, they don’t.

  1. They Want to Star in their Own Show

Some people who are given leadership roles merely want what comes with it: the corner office, the view, minions…


Their thoughts aren’t about what’s best for all; it’s about what’s best for them. Instead of doing work, they want to brag about their position and think about more important things, like their next vacation. They guard their position and never tell anyone what they’re thinking or why they’re doing what they’re doing. The words consensus, cooperation and connection remain in their dictionary under C and are not real life concepts for them.

More traits of self-interested leaders are bad tempers, anger, ingratitude, harassing employees, demeaning subordinates and more. It’s like working for a toddler no one has ever told NO.


  1. They Have Poor Communication Skills

Bad leaders don’t know how to communicate. Perhaps no one ever taught them or pointed out there was a problem, but many don’t care enough to think about it. Maybe they don’t collaborate with their staff because they think that they (and perhaps a few cronies) know better. Maybe they’re wedded to the status quo, scared of opposite opinions or are afraid of change.

Imagine there’s a decision that needs to be made that affects the entire company. An inadequate leader will make a unilateral decision then send out a memo stating there’s been a change with little or no explanation about the thought process or reasons behind it. If the leader had taken the time to consult the staff, maybe they’d learn that this change didn’t need to be implemented or there was a better way.


 Instead, those learning of the decision will raise their eyebrows, do some head-scratching or perhaps have a nuclear meltdown with shouts of “Why? echoing through the corridors.

  1. They Don’t Want to Do the Work to Inspire and Connect

Inspiring and connecting with people takes time and energy. Sitting in an office, tapping on a computer sending out emails about policy or what needs to be done is ineffective. A good leader will get up and go out to talk to people– and not just about business.

I had a good friend in hospice care at a convalescent home. I went to see him every day and got to know the nursing staff, the cafeteria workers and receptionists. I’d stop and ask how their day was, chat briefly about their vacation plans or other things. It never took much time. After awhile, people told me they wished I ran the place. Do I know anything about nursing homes? No. What these people wanted was someone who would listen and connect.

Their manager stayed in the office and never came out.


Sub-standard leaders don’t work on themselves or their relationships with others, then wonder why things aren’t going well.

  1. They Don’t Stay Focused on the Goal

When working to attain a goal, knowing what needs to be achieved and moving towards it sounds simple. To an ineffective leader, distractions, internal squabbling, indecision and more can keep a project from getting done. Because of all of the previous reasons listed above, they can’t get a group to work together and get things done.


In order to be a good leader, it takes good communication, consensus, connection and leading by example. A leader inspires others to do what needs to be done then stands back and gives them credit when the goal is achieved.


Be A Better Leader 

If you’ve recognized something you’ve done wrong in this blog post, congratulations! You can now make changes and learn to be better as a leader. Learning is a constant process and everyone makes mistakes. It’s a new day– get out there and lead!



In the past week, I’ve had two people tell me that I have a rare quality: likeability.  One of these people proclaimed it loudly to others, delighting me, of course.

Some people are instantly likeable. They have an easy manner, a ready smile and their energy is attractive to others. It’s been shown that people who have this characteristic go far in life, from politicians to employees.


 The good news is it’s something you can learn.

You see, likeability isn’t something that came naturally to me. It’s a skill-set I’ve been working on for quite awhile. I began life painfully shy and introverted.  I also have a face that, when resting, looks like I’m contemplating the darkest problems of the world.  The Joker would definitely ask me “Why so serious?”


Being a former prosecutor hasn’t helped. My tone of voice can become so intense it occasionally sounds like I’m trying to convict the person I’m speaking with of some heinous crime.

Here are a few ideas on how to improve likeability:

1. Connect with Others

When you see someone, friend or stranger, smile at them. Ask them how their day is going, then don’t settle for the standard answer of “Good or Fine.” Ask some follow up questions. A friend recently told me about a study where participants spent five hours on a plane solely asking questions about their seat-mate’s lives.  Participants would always turn the conversation back to the person and never gave any information about themselves. After the trip, when asked what the seat-mate thought of the other person, they invariably said “They’re the most interesting person I ever met!” Even though they knew nothing about them.


Davy Rothbart, an author and filmmaker, told a story about how he and his dad would eat at a diner somewhere and, over the course of the meal, his dad would start asking their waiter about their life. Where are you from? What are your interests? What do you hope to one day become? His curiosity was so kind, genuine & gentle, it was never long before the server glanced around for the manager and sat down. By the time they left, his dad had a new friend. He wasn’t trying to promote anything or network. He just believed our lives are made richer when we can engage strangers and take time to connect meaningfully with people who cross our paths in everyday life. He always seemed to effortlessly, magically befriend people who crossed his path from waiters to a person in front of him in line at the grocery store to a ticket scalper outside a football game. Simply by asking questions about who they were and what made them tick. These encounters left both his dad and the people in brighter spirits.

2. Be Present

We all do it. Someone is talking to us and we’re thinking of what we’re going to say or other things.  We stop looking into that person’s eyes and giving them our undivided attention, our minds elsewhere.  We’re jonesing for our smartphone, which we haven’t touched for 2 seconds. There’s probably an email or text waiting for us. Or a move to make in Words with Friends.


Stop. Focus on the person in front of you and really, truly listen.

3. Care

Recently I saw a former colleague and noticed he wasn’t quite his usual happy-go-lucky self.  When he saw I genuinely cared to find out what was going on in his life, he disclosed that his  niece had been in a car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. She’d require 24 hour care the rest of her life. When I saw him again a few weeks later, I made sure to ask after his niece.

We all have problems. We’re all wrapped up in getting through our days and figuring out our lives. The thing we have to remember: so is everyone else. Take time to notice.