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08/29 2012

The Seven Habits of… Highly Unsuccessful Executives!

Sure, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People have been well-publicized.   But what about the common characteristics of unsuccessful executives?

As reported recently in Forbes on-line, Professor Syndney Finkelstein of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business published an article entitled “Why Smart Executives Fail” some eight years ago — and his words of wisdom continue to ring true as we survey the corporate landscape of today.

According to Finkelstein, here are the habits of unsuccessful executives — leaders beware!

  1. Habit #1:  Seeing their companies as dominating their environment:  Leaders demonstrating this habit fail to realize the changing nature of the business environment  — as well as the role of timing and circumstance — in determining their overall success.  Leaders displaying this habit overestimate their personal importance to their organizations –and see subordinates simply as agents to execute the leader’s vision for the company.  This results in leaders who ignore market messages and input from staff — which is never a good recipe for success.
  2. Habit #2:  Identifying so completely with their company that there is no clear distinction between their personal interests and the corporation’s interests:  At first,  this tendency may actually seem beneficial.  However, instead of treating companies as entities that need nurturing, failed leaders treat the company as an extension of themselves — hence a “private empire” mentality takes hold.  CEO’s displaying this habit use their companies to carry-out personal ambitions — including using corporate funds for personal reasons, including perks.
  3. Habit #3:  They think that they have all of the answers:  While it is easy to think of a leader who makes quick decisions as being decisive and dynamic, the truth is that leaders who operate in this manner not only fail to engage in appropriate fact finding — they also fail to ask for input from others, and fail to see problems (or make corrections) when they arise.
  4. Habit #4:  They ruthlessly eliminate anybody who isn’t completely behind them:  For these leaders, any manager who hesitates to embrace the leader’s vision has two choices — get with the plan or leave.  However, by eliminating all dissenting and contrasting viewpoints, these CEO’s drive dissent underground, which makes the entire organization suffer.   Leaders with everyone behind them miss-out on the critical information that only comes from hearing dissenting points of view.
  5. Habit #5:   They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with company image:  Focused on appearances, these leaders often substitute the accomplishment of work objectives with “simply appearing” to accomplish things.  An extension of this habit involves using financial reports mainly as a public-relations tool, rather than a tool to drive higher levels of actual corporate performance.
  6. Habit #6:  Underestimating Obstacles:  CEO’s who are too enamored of their vision frequently fail to think about how they will actually achieve their objectives.  This results in a CEO who consistently downplays the significance of obstacles –which is demoralizing to those staff members who are having to deal with them –and also results in the CEO having unrealistic expectations.
  7. Habit #7:  Stubbornly relying on what worked for them in the past:  In an attempt to capitalize on core strengths, CEO’s exhibiting this habit may bring products to markets that no longer exist, or they fail to consider innovations in technology that could enhance operations.   Using their own career as a sole frame of reference, such CEO’s frequently repeat the same behaviors that led them to success in previous situations — without taking the time to evaluate how external circumstances have changed.

Forbes concludes that if you personally are exhibiting any of these traits, it is time to stamp them out of your managerial repertoire.  Finally, the article concludes that if your boss or several senior executives are displaying these traits — it may be time to find a new job!

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