Here is how to fail leadership

Stacey Ashley Blog

Here is how to fail leadership

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

Jack Welch


A couple of years ago I was the guest speaker at a CEO luncheon as part of promoting my first book, The New Leader. During the lunchtime conversation, one Managing Director sitting at my table was talking about his imminent retirement. He lamented the lack of readiness of the people reporting to him. He was so disappointed with his direct reports as none of them were ready to take on the role of Managing Director following his retirement.

I asked how long he has been working with his direct reports. He said at least 5 years, and for some of them much longer.

Then I asked him, what he thought was lacking in them. He said, ‘they simply don’t have the skills to lead at the level required of the Managing Director’s role.’

When I asked him ‘who had the responsibility to equip them to lead at this level’ there was silence. ….. Then a glare.  Then he said, ‘so you think it’s my fault they aren’t ready?’

My response….. ‘If not you, who?’

Let’s just say he wasn’t happy with me.

This is an important question. If you are not preparing your people to lead at a higher level, then who has this responsibility?

A fundamental part of being a leader is to create more leaders.


Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.

Tom Peters


Without proactive leadership development throughout people’s careers, we are exposing them to the possibility of not being able to perform their role because we haven’t supported them well enough. And this in itself is a failure of leadership.

Senior leaders need to ensure that they support their leaders at all levels by being proactive in their development, rather than hoping that their people will be successful simply because they have been successful in earlier roles.

Mentor, model and coach every day. My Dad used to tell me, as a leader you always need an heir and a spare. People you are actively developing and mentoring to step up into your own role.

This is not a new idea and yet, it is still a fundamental failing in many organisations. We are a world in need of leadership. We are a world in need of human leadership. And so, we need to build and grow and develop more leaders.

An Egon Zendor report in May 2017  found that for those in VP roles and above it takes most people 6 months or longer to make an impact in their roles, and for CEO’s it can be much longer. And according to the Harvard Business Review, at least 2 out of 5 new CEOs fail in their first 18 months on the job. While Executives who get the right support get up to speed in about half the time and continue to perform.

In order for leaders to inspire, influence and engage their teams so they can perform and deliver in a world of change, they must develop their practice of leadership. The responsibility falls to senior leaders to share their learning, their wisdom, their mistakes and to show others what it is to be a leader at the senior and executive levels.


I’d love to know your thoughts.

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