Who suffers when leaders fail? People. People are always left to suffer in the wake of failed leadership

We are currently witnessing a reckoning in the ranks of leadership across all fronts. In 2017, the world watched numerous individuals plummet from the mountaintop in the fields of business, sports, media, government, law enforcement, and Hollywood. What was the cause of their demise? It certainly had nothing to do with a lack of skill, talent, education, or experience. Many of these individuals were even regarded as “pioneers” in their respective arenas earning millions of dollars for their contributions and achievements.

In my previous post entitled, “Leadership Is Everything,” we explored how all things rise and fall on leadership and that leadership is the catalyst of success and failure. The Edelman Trust Barometer study revealed the declining trust of leaders across the institutions of politics, media, and business. Our world is a mess as a result of the absence of resolute leadership. This is a tragedy because in the aftermath of failed leadership lays suffering. Who suffers when leaders fail? People. People are always left to suffer in the wake of failed leadership.

Sadly, and to our own detriment, the concept of values, principals, and virtues have become archaic to the “enlightened culture” we find ourselves living in today. All too often in our society, we have traded principals for performance, ethics for educational degrees, and morals for monetary gain. We have emphasized talents that drives action over the one substance that guards action.

Take the gift of vision for example. All who aspire to lead want to learn and acquire this ability to see what has not yet been. And why wouldn’t they? Vision is the genesis of all progress and since nothing progresses without leadership, it is an essential tool for one who desires to lead. Stephen Covey said, “All things are created twice. Vision is the first creation.” Yet, as powerful as vision is, it is not powerful enough to protect power; only character can do this.

The question remains: what explains the decline in leaders across our world?

Not too long ago, I received an invitation to join a fairly prominent leadership conference on the west coast. There were many topics to be discussed over this 3 day event by various guest speakers. The agenda included subjects such as, “Essentials of Executive Leadership”, “Persuasion & Influence”, “Systematic & Critical Thinking”, “Strategic Agility”, “Building Profitable Relationships”, and a few others. Just the other day, I received a separate email from a social media outlet that featured online virtual learning for leaders. The subject line read, “Learn Essential Skills for Leadership.” The most popular leader classes featured, “Executive Leadership”, “Strategy & Innovation”, “Teams & Collaboration”, “Problem Solving & Decisions”, and “Communication.”

It is here where we begin to see the root of all the issues we find ourselves facing throughout the lines of leadership. If you were to analyze the learning modules for leaders on the market, the focus is predominately on building culture, creating value, communication, and strategy. These topics are helpful and important, but fail to address the most critical tool for leadership today.

The most critical ingredient for effective leadership is not education, experience, position, communication skills, strategic agility, position, charisma, decision-making, executive presence, analytical acumen, emotional intelligence, management skills, talent, or vision. It is character.

As all things rise and fall on leadership, leadership rises and falls on character. Character is critical because out of the many gifts that leaders need to be impactful, it is the only component that ensures the consistent execution of honorable conduct and secures a leader’s credibility. Character serves as the inner blueprint that drives a leader’s decision making process, magnifies their motives, and serves as the guardrails to their actions. It is this unshakable moral core that is the defining line of defense for leaders enabling them to withstand the winds of temptation and the test of time.

“Character serves as the inner blueprint that drives a leader’s decision-making process, magnifies their motives, and serves as the guardrails to their actions”

Character serves as the inner blueprint that drives a leader’s decision-making process, magnifies their motives, and serves as the guardrails to their actions

Leadership is about people; therefore, the condition of one’s inner core is what makes them adequate to formally lead. Perhaps this is why it is said that leadership begins within. Character doesn’t make leaders, it safeguards them. Leadership is influence and influence is sustained by character. Therefore, character is the guardian of influence.

Talent, education, charisma, and all the other necessary ingredients for effective leadership may get you to the top of the mountain, but Character is the only component that will keep you from falling off the backside.

Final thought…

I didn’t take the time to mention names of the leaders or companies who have fallen from their pedestals because their names are not important. What is important is that we realize that every last one of us is flawed, scarred, and falls short daily. For this reason, all of us are in desperate need of and ought to be willing to extend grace and forgiveness to each other. This doesn’t negate the pain, consequences, or excuses their actions. To those who point their fingers at those who have fallen, a word of caution to realize that the same pride that points the finger is the same pride that caused their fall.