When Leadership Fails
By: David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer
Lately, I have been thinking about leadership failures. I have failed so many times in my more than 30 years as a leader, so I have a lot to think about! At one point in my life, I would have said the worst failures involved not growing myself or my team. Maybe I would have identified not being encouraging enough to people or not inspiring others. I now believe I have found the most serious leadership failure, and this is one that I committed far too often: not defining reality.
Too often I didn’t want my team to worry, or I felt the situation would change and we could get the ship back on course. The problem is that sometimes the course we are on is the problem. It could be that in the middle of the course we have chosen is an iceberg and we can’t seem to believe that all the chunks of ice floating by us may actually be warning signs of danger. Unfortunately we can’t ask Captain Edward J. Smith of the RMS Titanic how well that goes. He went down with the ship on that fateful April day in 1912 along with 1,500 people including Thomas Andrews, Jr. the naval architect of this unsinkable ship.
The Titanic was designed with 16 watertight compartments in her hull. This design allowed for four of the compartments to flood and the vessel could survive. No one could even imagine four flooding. After striking the iceberg, five compartments flooded, and she sank in 12,415 feet of water off the coast of Newfoundland. In addition to the design issue, a rushed build schedule caused the shipyard to use inferior materials for the rivets that held her steel hull together. And one last thing, they elected to leave port without enough lifeboats. So many realities were ignored because of aesthetics, time schedules, and a belief that she was so well designed that she would never sink.
Great leaders always look to define reality for themselves and their teams. They bring others around them to help make sure they see what is really happening. Will you choose to be a great leader? Will you be willing to confront the realities that might be all around you? Is so, join Marisa Norcross and me on The Next Page podcast as we take a closer look at what happened with the Titanic and how we can use this lesson each and every day as we navigate our teams through troubling seas.