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The dark side of leadership: 11 reasons why they might fail

Being awarded a leadership role within an organization may feel like an amazing accomplishment, but that is only half the battle. The second, and arguably most important half, lies in building and maintaining a highly effective team.

However, according to a study conducted on UK workers, managers are failing miserably at this task, and are instead fostering feelings of hate and resentment among their workers. The survey states that while 22% of the UK public say they hate their boss, a more staggering 52% claim that their boss is their main cause of job dissatisfaction. So, where is it that managers are going wrong, and what can they do improve their employees’ perception of them?

Compelling research by V. Jon Bentz – Vice President for Human Resources at Sears during the 1970s – found that managerial failure had little to do with IQ or personal attractiveness. Rather, it was linked directly to interpersonal competence. And, since personality is at the core of interpersonal competence, we can use personality assessments – such as those we have developed at Hogan – to identify the 11 personality scales that cause leaders to fail time and time again.

The Hogan Development Survey, introduced in 1997 by Drs. Robert Hogan and Joyce Hogan, is the only personality assessment that identifies critical blind spots that lead to career derailment. It helps leaders by providing insights about their counterproductive tendencies – or “risk factors” – that inevitably cause managerial failure. These characteristics become heightened during times of stress, and result in poor relationships with employees and other key stakeholders.

To lead a team more successfully, leaders need to be aware of these 11 personality scales or “derailers”:

Excitable – People scoring high on this scale have lots of energy and enthusiasm for new projects. However, they quickly become disinterested when projects don’t go according to original plans. They tend to express their frustrations with people and projects publicly in emotional outbursts, creating an unsettling workplace atmosphere, where employees walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting or disappointing their manager.

Skeptical – Leaders scoring highly on this scale are distrustful of others, believing that others will stab them in the back as soon as they let their guard down. While this approach keeps the leader attuned to the sometimes-ugly underbelly of organizational politics, this person is ultimately unable to gain anyone else’s trust either. This ultimately results in a completely dysfunctional work environment where decisions are made via secret meetings and without open discourse.

Cautious – Cautious leaders operate in constant fear of making a mistake. They believe that you can never be certain of anything and operate with the worst-case-scenario in mind. As a result, they are reluctant to try new approaches or to make-decisions of any real consequences. Their subordinates learn to work around them if they want to get anything accomplished.

Reserved – Reserved leaders believe that work is done best when people can focus in complete solitude. They keep face-to-face time to a minimum and lock themselves away when things get stressful. Reserved leaders are also less sympathetic to other people’s problems which results in their subordinates viewing them as cold, hard-nosed, and unhelpful.

Leisurely – Leisurely individuals show up as polite and socially skilled when leading a team, which is why they are often liked and respected within their organization. However, after working closely with these people for some time, employees will see through the smokescreen and notice many fatal flaws. When faced with real challenges, these leaders are not very productive, and will react by finding ways to avoid and deflect responsibility.

Bold – Bold leaders are inspiring, courageous, and confident. While employees may learn a lot from these individuals about how to rise to the top of organizations, they can also be challenging to work for. They refuse to acknowledge or take accountability for their mistakes and failures – for fear of losing face – and so the blame will always fall on employees. Likewise, these individuals take credit for major wins, and are bad at recognizing and rewarding hard work from their team.

Mischievous – Mischievous people love thrill and excitement and thrive in high-octane situations. Leaders scoring highly here are willing to take risks and will spring into action during times of stress. In a leadership role, this is certainly necessary, but challenges arise for workers when leaders score too highly here. These leaders sometimes lack consideration for their workers, who put in the groundwork that set them up for success, and who are most impacted when taking on large, ambitious projects.

Colorful – Colorful leaders enjoy being the center of attention, and thrive during stressful situations too, but in different ways. Whereas mischievous leaders live for the rush of high-risk projects, colorful leaders enjoy the fame and attention these projects bring, which can work against their favor. Employees often find these leaders chaotic and erratic to work with and will have to deal with poor organization and indecisiveness.

Imaginative – Imaginative people are highly creative and love to engage in brainstorming sessions. They view even simple problems as immensely complex and in need of highly innovative solutions. As leaders, they become easily bored by daily tasks and activities and are easily distracted by their own thoughts. As a result, their subordinates view them as unfocused and impractical.

Diligent – Diligent individuals are perfectionists and have a hard time delegating work efficiently among their staff. As a result, they tend to complete most tasks themselves – taking on more than they can manage – which hinders quality and turnaround. These leaders are challenging to work with, in that they slow down productivity and micromanage their staff.

Dutiful – Dutiful leaders lack initiative and resourcefulness. In stark contrast to the diligent leader, these individuals rely too heavily on their team-members, hoping that they will carry the project through to completion without having to take any real responsibility or make any risky decisions.

As job dissatisfaction continues to rise, the employee-employer relationship is becoming more important. In order to successfully manage a team and lead it towards great results, leaders from all organizations need to form meaningful connections with their employees. Developing and maintaining awareness of these 11 derailers can help top-level management and team leaders to foster stronger working relationships with their employees. Only then can a manager successfully lead a team towards greatness and achieve strong results.


This blog was originally posted on October 8, 2019 by Hogan Assessment Systems' blog.