The good, bad and ugly faces of leadership

The good, bad and ugly faces of leadership

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Of all the obstacles to halt real progress in business, the worst of all must surely be bad management.

The unfortunate thing about poor management is that if it resides at the very top, then it can’t be changed until that person either leaves the company or is replaced.

As a business leader, mentor and coach I’m often asked about this issue. Younger entrepreneurs or future managers want to understand if management practice makes a difference to the success of a business and its bottom line. My reply is always the same: “yes, it most certainly does”.

Put simply, the difference between an average company, or even a good company, compared to a great company is almost always the leader, and good or bad management.

Fit to lead

Take for example the Volkswagen scandal. It was a globally recognised vehicle brand of almost iconic status in terms of product quality and reliability, until the ’emissions gate’ came along.

The company’s leadership denied any knowledge of the cheating of which they were accused. They offered an apology for their apathy, and a promise to conduct a full-scale internal investigation into how such a catastrophic sequence of events could have occurred on their watch.

A deeper examination of their explanation reveals that what they were actually admitting to was poor leadership. Great leaders are aware of what is going on throughout their business, no matter the size. 

If not, then they know they have no right to be in charge. Therefore the only conclusions in the Volkswagen saga that make any kind of sense are:

  1. The chief executive was telling the truth and was unaware, in which case he was not fit to lead the business. If they were ignorant of something as this severe and significant, what else have they missed?
  2. They were being ‘modest’ with the truth and were fully aware of the decision that led to the scandal.

Both explanations point to bad management. In this scenario, terrible judgement and poor leadership resulted in the types of financial losses that only a company of its size and scale have withstood.

Bad management

There is also the type of leadership that fails to inspire. The leader’s lack of vision, direction and passion for the business results in their inability to enthuse and motivate their teams. The company inevitably suffers.

Ego is another trait to be mindful of. Many figureheads tend to have an ego, and in moderation, it helps them have the confidence to make bold decisions.

All of us like to feel recognised when we get something right and to feel valued for our contribution—leaders are no different. In fact, they often find inspiration in feeling valued and knowing their decisions make a difference to the company and staff.

Ego does become a problem when leaders suffer from an overload. Some managers believe no one can do anything as well as they can. They will interfere in areas of the business that are managed by individuals with great potential. These people can become disengaged because of a lack of progress and a sense of under-achievement caused by poor management.

Suffering from ‘blindside syndrome’ is another threat to motivational leadership. ‘Blind’ managers very often can’t see the negative effect of their hypocritical behaviour on the people they are supposed to inspire.

Their intention is not to be bad managers, they are simply unaware that their inconsistent behaviour is exceptionally demotivating.

Leadership listens

A business without the right leadership is almost certain to either fail or fall short its true potential, regardless of the talent present in the workforce.

It’s no coincidence that the world’s top-performing companies are led by some of the world’s most inspirational business leaders.

A great boss should listen first and act upon evidence-based information. You should empathise and have the foresight to surround yourself with people who are passionate about making a difference in their respective roles. These people should be capable of delivering on objectives within their role better than their respective leaders. 

Effective leadership is about empowering people to deliver on a pre-agreed vision set by the top team. Great leaders should be a catalyst to help their people perform at their maximum potential. They can get the best out of their staff by giving them the confidence to achieve their goals. 


About the author

Jacqui Miller-Charlton has over 35 years’ experience working within a senior executive role in her own business alongside her two brothers. A trail-blazer in the construction, quarrying, mining and associated industries she changed the face of how hydraulic excavators are used around the world through the introduction of their company’s revolutionary Miller Quick Coupler.

 Jacqui stepped down from her operational role in 2014 but remains a shareholder and main board director. More recently she has assisted in mentoring many business professionals looking to create, grow or change and manage their own businesses.


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