Leadership in Crisis

an article by Barb McEwen

Let's take a look at where corporations are today and how working with us can revitalize your organization and inspire your people.

During the last decade, one-third of the CEOs in Fortune 500 companies have lasted less than three years. Top executive failure rates are estimated to be as high as seventy-five percent and rarely lower than thirty percent. A McKinsey study found that the pipeline for future leaders is broken. Only three percent of those responding to the survey felt their company developed leaders well.

Why is this happening? Simply because leaders -- like the rest of us -- tend to judge their own performance significantly better than do those they work with. This gap in leadership performance occurs because…

We judge ourselves by our intentions while we judge others by their actions.

The gaps between what we see and what others see about us are known as blind spots. For leaders, having blind spots can be career-limiting. The wider the gap, the more resistance there is to change.

If such a climate exists, it is tough to create an organizational culture where openness and honesty in such matters are encouraged. Yet candid, fact-based feedback is the "breakfast of champions". Although we can grow through our own diligence, we are never clairvoyant enough to see what others see. Failing to identify weaknesses can damage and undermine leadership credibility and effectiveness. The more senior the executive, the higher the cost to the organization.

Did you know that when someone assumes a new or different leadership role that person has about a forty percent chance of demonstrating disappointing performance? Or that eighty-two percent of newly appointed leaders de-rail because they fail to build partnerships and teamwork with subordinates and peers?

We are seeing an increasing demand for those who can deal with change and ambiguity, especially in these turbulent times, but there are few who are appropriately trained.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
John F. Kennedy

Here are some of the reasons why we have a leadership crisis …

  • The most senior positions in numerous organizations are now filled with people in their 50s and 60s. These leaders grew up with a command and control role attitude -- they gave orders rather than facilitating and teaching staff. These well-meaning leaders continue to do a lot of problem-solving rather than reaching out for input and empowering subordinates. With rapid response the norm today, all organizations now need every person to be capable and empowered to provide value-added service. It's essential that leaders leverage each employee's expertise to optimize performance. We help leaders learn those skills and techniques.
  • Younger leaders in their 30s and 40s may have not yet led an organization through the uncertain times we have today. They understand a lot about the need to involve people in decision-making, but may not understand the complexities of how people are motivated. On top of this are globalization, diversity, flexible working conditions, changing values and managing continuous change.
  • In addition, many leaders have gained their positions without adequate training and are leading with little more than a wing and a prayer. We would never let an unskilled driver behind the wheel of a semi-trailer, so how can we expect the untutored to be effective leaders when we promote them? Research shows these "lucky winners" have as much a chance of being successful as they do at winning the lottery.
No matter what a leader does, if followers don't respond, then the leader fails.
Stephen P. Robbins

We also know that good leaders provide vision. Good leaders take away the doubt and uncertainty, the fear of the future. Good leaders provide an environment in which people can grow. Good leaders understand that it is their duty to develop others. Good leaders instill values. Good leaders make the people around them successful. Good leaders are passionate and committed. Good leaders are authentic. Good leaders are courageous, honest and credible.

Leaders are only as effective as the degree to which they motivate and inspire others to achieve desired results. Leadership is a learning process, and like any other process there are steps that are critical to success.

Our highly trained professional coaches offer one-on-one confidential assistance giving you an opportunity to address a variety of issues that may be affecting your staff, your team or yourself. Don't delay, contact us today.


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Barb McEwen is a Master Executive Coach and Organizational Strategist who works with corporations and individuals worldwide. As founder of 20/20 Executive Coaching and 20/20 Executive Women she has spent the past twelve years working with high potential individuals to help them hone their leadership and management skills. Contact Barb at