Bonnie and Clyde: Actions Excusable?

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By: Center For Worklife - Expert Reviewer

Bonnie and Clyde: Actions Excusable?

Management Monday… Managing Leadership Change

Glenn Llopis recently contributed an article for Forbes entitled Eight Clear Signs It’s Time To Make A Leadership Change. In this piece, Llopis describes meeting with leaders of a long established brand, and being alarmed by the immaturity and general lack of leadership ability displayed by the team. The informative articles goes on to list eight signs that it’s time for a leadership change. These kinds of signs range from outdated style and entitlement to lack of focus and more. Unfortunately, many times leaders are cut off at the knees and not given the chance to turnaround. Senior level terminations have been on the rise. CEO and Senior Management Terminations, a recent Korn/Ferry Institute survey found that 48 percent of 262 participants were terminated from senior level positions within their first year on the job.

There are opportunities for change that fall between the steps of identifying problems and taking the big step of letting a leader go. These leaders aren’t robbing banks, breaking the law or taking lives like the notorious Bonnie and Clyde. Though some would argue their actions are excusable, like in the responses to this Bonnie and Clyde biography, that feels like a stretch. On the other hand, leaders are often good intentioned, but too easily criticized. They simply need to be guided in the correct direction, in order to succeed. And why is it worth working with leaders before kicking them to the curb? Turnover costs vary, but on average, they range from 50%-150% of the employee’s base salary (The Advisory Board Company). With all that in mind, here are some solutions to consider.

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Table of Contents

Leadership Change Options:

  1. Leaders struggling with a lack of maturity set a negative tone in workplace culture and are most likely very unhappy with themselves. This kind of immaturity or rash decision making can stem from an under-planned succession process, meaning the leader prematurely transitioned into their role. In a situation like this, it may be helpful to match the leader with a mentor of an opposing leadership style or utilize leadership training opportunities. In addition, organization’s struggling with this type of situation would do well to develop a functional succession planning process for future leadership development.
  2. All too often, excelling employees find themselves in management positions, because they performed exceedingly well at the tasks in their previous role. However, technical ability doesn’t equate to leadership ability. Back in 2006, reports like CEO Departure: What Went Wrong? from Volume XVI of CEO Update pointed to lack of leadership skills as a top cause of CEO turnover. Bill Gaines of Regis Consumer Products is an example of the importance of strong leadership skills for CEOs according to Increase your Chances of Survival as a CEO by David Brookmire. It is pointed out that Gaines was known for his many skills and reliability, but lacked inspirational leadership skills. However, after undergoing executive coaching to attain stronger leadership skills, he has succeeded in his role.
  3. Pressure builds up and somewhere along the line leaders can develop a sense of entitlement or simply a sour attitude. Though they are strategizing and focused on the bottom line, they can easily forget how to treat their co-workers or even customers for that matter. This goes beyond “lacking people skills.” These types of leaders have genuinely lowered or lost their ability to identify their own emotions or those of others. How can one lead without empathy or reliability? It is not possible. Emotional intelligence training is often the key to reversing poor behavior which stems from this issue.
  4. It may not be just an out of place brush stroke that’s causing the problem, but an entire canvas of disjointed stroke styles. The point is that there may not even be issues with leaders individually, but instead their collaboration process is flawed. Team effectiveness seems like an obvious answer here, but it should be reiterated. When a group isn’t communicating successfully, it will weaken their performance individually and as a whole. J. Richard Hackman, one of the authors of Senior Leadership Teams, says “Ruth Wageman, Debra Nunes, James Burruss, and I collected and analyzed data on more than 120 top teams around the world. Not surprisingly, we found that almost every senior team we studied thought that it had set unambiguous boundaries. Yet when we asked members to describe their team, fewer than 10% agreed about who was on it” (Harvard Business Review). Team building opportunities, conflict resolution training and team development are methods to resolve problems like this.

So before a company rushes to an “out with the old, in with the new” response to struggling leadership, it is important to consider the root of trouble and evaluate all possible solutions. Bill Gaines proved that simply taking the time to discover the issue and implement training can make a world of difference. For that matter, another successful leader you may recognize, Steve Jobs, was once fired from Apple due to weak leadership skills, but we all know he turned that around and pioneered global success when he returned to the company.

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