CXO

Five fatal flaws IT leaders must address to advance

A new book explores how great leaders are made. The authors say that we should not pay too much attention to management weaknesses, unless it's one of these five flaws.

A new book explores how great leaders are made. The authors say that we should not pay too much attention to management weaknesses, unless it's one of these five flaws.

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Joseph Folkman and John Zenger have co-authored a book called The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders. The book is the result of a five-year research project led by Folkman that involved a database of 200,000 360-degree feedback reports pertaining to approximately 20,000 managers within hundreds of companies.

The book takes a look at how leaders are and are not developed. One point the authors make is that too much emphasis is placed on correcting weaknesses in potential managers. They say their research indicated that "lack of weaknesses" was not the distinguishing feature of the best leaders. Most great leaders have shortcomings, but the strengths they possess are profound. In other words, all leaders have some areas where they're not so strong, but those aren't a problem if a leader has outstanding strengths that compensate.

However, according to the authors, there are five flaws ("fatal flaws") that prevent a leader from moving forward if the shortcomings are not addressed. These "fatal flaws" are:

  • Inability to learn from mistakes
  • Interpersonal incompetence
  • Lack of openness to new ideas
  • Tendency to blame others for problems
  • Lack of initiative

I think those are spot-on, though I would add the phrase "inability to admit mistakes" to number one. What do you think? Are these "fatal flaws" on target?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

7 comments
JasonKB
JasonKB

The management habit ?inability to admit mistakes? is a product of an environment where the focus is on what went wrong rather that what went right. Far too many organizations put undue focus on what went wrong (as in "let's make sure this never happens again") rather than examining their successes for ways of making it happen again. This comes from the management by exception school of thought where only problems, particularly those notices by the CEO, are given any real attention. Having worked under this kind of management it appears, at first, to be an environment of trust and autonomy, but In my experience it ends up being one of disassociation on what's really going on and a perceptual (or real) loss in perceived value of the IT function. Too many senior managers get into the mindset where they have to be infallible. From that vantage point all of the 5+1 points exist only in other people.

McProgrammer
McProgrammer

To me a leader is one who is looking at the view from 10,000 feet and seeing how to ensure that the organization is moving in the right direction in every way. This includes staying current with technology, managing change, training, cross-training employees, and ensuring that we underlings are utilized to our full potential. The worse trait in an IT leader is just reacting to requests that come in instead of being proactive or "Failure to Lead."

wbranch
wbranch

I think "inability to admit mistakes" is covered in parts by both inability to learn from mistakes and tendency to blame others. It's pretty hard to admit a mistake when you're constantly shifting blame and not learning from your past.

rbogar
rbogar

Most of these are summed up in a very old observation, that "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall".

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

They just have a bigger impact the further up the food chain you go. However without adressing culture you'll never get anywhere. Lack of openness to new ideas and initiative are a consequence of blame culture. A blame culture is interpersonal incompetence, and if you've successfully blamed someone else you haven't made a mistake.....

Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

It seems rather scary that these issues still happen, but I am sure that all of us at some point experience these traits in our teams or ourselves. I can definitely see where these would be things to avoid or correct.

jnewsom
jnewsom

I work at a company where blame-fixing became entrenched in favor of problem-solving. That trait came down from the company president, and I could watch new employees get the lay of the land and emulate the bad behavior. Ownership and control have now passed to other hands, so we're working to change the culture now. This kind of thing is difficult to stop once it gets started.

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