Indecisiveness is the kiss of death for leaders

Ever wondered why so many leaders with good resumes, fail miserably? Executive business coach John M McKee uses the example of a recent high-profile failure to provide some insight.

 In the world's second-largest economy, a superstar politician just lost his job because he didn't understand one of the fundamental laws of leadership.

Yukio Hatoyama, was, until June 4 Japan's Prime Minister. He'd swept into power with the largest-ever majority in recent times only nine months ago.  Then he was forced to resign in disgrace.

The son of a prominent and politically effective family that's been likened to the Kennedy dynasty, Hatoyama made a career in politics. He's held several important roles.  His background - one would assume - should have been great training for the top job in government.  Seems like it wasn't.

Like one of those guys who won a huge lottery at the local convenience store and then ends up broke a few years later; the former PM snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

His performance on both the world stage and domestic fronts was anything but impressive.  The press frequently noted that he embarrassed Japan.  But he didn't lose the faith of voters or his party because of those bad actions in the public, (including particularly odd choices of clothing,)

He could have continued to rule what is still the world's biggest economic power after the U.S. if he had just remembered one key lesson of leadership.  It's a critical lesson and it applies to leaders in all roles, in all areas and organizations. It's a Universal Law:

Act like a leader.

Regardless of what is being led, people want to believe that the person in charge will make tough decisions, and then lead them forward.

We want to our leaders be to decisive and act accordingly.

Whether it's a team, a business, or a country; across the world people want their leaders to be strong.

We all want our leaders to be able to navigate around rocky shores, keep the eye on the goal, and deliver the goods.

And in most cases we'll cut them a bit of slack for the occasional mistake.

But Hatoyama rarely acted like a leader. He came into power with big promises and statements that gave the Japanese hope that a new sheriff was coming to town.  And then he blew it.  He quickly gained a reputation for being what's called in the U.S., "a flip flopper" on very-important issues of domestic importance.  Early decisions were reconsidered. Very soon he gained a reputation of being indecisive.

Indecisiveness is the kiss of death for anyone who wants to lead.  It quickly shows itself.  When it does, the leader's career, or future. is over.  Watch your favorite successful leaders - you'll see that they're prepared to make tough calls.

Act accordingly.


Leadership Coach


John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

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