Leadership is hard work. Even the most technically gifted of people may still find the leadership of others a tall order. Leadership is after all a discipline of its own, with its skills and techniques to master. Knowing a lot about an area or having a lot of experience just isn’t enough. For many leadership is learnt on the fly and as such, it would be helpful to recognise signs that leadership may not be working out. Perhaps you are looking from the other end wondering how to diagnose poor leadership in others. Whichever the case we have some universal signs that leadership is not working out.

Inability to energise others

One of the most important functions of leadership is the motivation of others. Leaders don’t do things for those they lead. The job of the leader is to inspire those under their leadership to achieve. So when a leader fails to motivate or energise those they lead this is the beginning of all problems. The trouble here is that people are energised differently, the same approach will not work on everyone. Some people respond well to hawkish micromanagement and others don’t. Understanding the needs of each person where a person helps.

Normalising mediocre performance

The job of the leader is to get the best out of their people. When you see a person in an organisation perform poorly and get away with it there’s a high chance that leadership is accepting of that/ While it is acceptable that performance can wane from time to time and nobody does their best in a role in the beginning, continued acceptance of poor performance to the point of normalising it has a detrimental effect on performance in the long run. Good leadership accepts that while performance is not always optimal, finding ways to improve it is imperative.

Failure to communicate the vision

Leaders will tend to operate from a strategic level. Metaphorically looking down from the balcony seeing the big picture of where the organisation wants to be. Those under their leadership operate on the battlefield, fighting the small battles that will make up the war so to speak. So another important function of leaders is to communicate the vision to those they lead. When subordinates do not understand the overall vision or how their operational tasks link to the overall vision they are likely to fail at critical parts of their work and hence jeopardise the objective.

Not walking the talk

Communicating the vision is one thing but embodying the vision is another. While people do place importance on what other people, particularly leaders, say they will place much more importance on what they do. Communicating the vision is talking the talk. Being an example of the vision is walking the talk. There is great potential for chaos when leaders are not or are not seen to be walking the talk. That last part is very important because even the perception that leaders are not walking the talk is enough to wreak havoc.

Not learning from mistakes

If you’ve ever tried to do anything you’ve surely made mistakes. Making mistakes is a part of the learning process. What separates good leaders from poor ones is learning from mistakes and how quickly they do it. So when one realises a mistake has been made, it’s important to identify the lessons that can be learnt from the experience and implement them as soon as possible. You will find that leaders who perform well tend to quickly identify, learn from and correct their mistakes.

Not investing in development

Improvement of performance in an organisation is a key aspect of leadership. As pointed out earlier leadership does not directly impact performance but rather indirectly. One of the most important pillars of achieving this is focusing on the development of staff including self. Effective leaders understand that investing the development is not optional. Development is both a short term and long term activity and approaching from both perspectives makes the best sense. It is after all absurd at best to expect improved performance from employees and team members that have not been improved.

Finally, while we looked at these signs in public leadership you will see they apply in personal leadership as well. So you can apply these to your leadership of self as well as leadership of people and organisations.