What Leaders Can Do to Become More Trustworthy

I’ve been reflecting on Barbara Kellerman’s book “The End of Leadership”. Everyone has at one time in their career had to endure a truly bad boss. What can we be aware of to ensure we don’t fall into the trap of becoming a bad leader ourselves?
Leaders can become more effective and ethical by following these steps:
o Limit tenure in positions of power; share power.
o Don’t believe your own hype; get and stay real.
o Compensate for your weaknesses by hiring and delegating well.
o Stay balanced and healthy.
o Remember the mission.
o Develop a personal support system (mentor, advisor, coach, best friend).
o Establish a culture of openness in which diversity and dissent are encouraged.
o Be creative, reflective and flexible.
o Avoid groupthink; ask the right kinds of questions.
o Question assumptions; get reliable and complete information.
o Establish checks and balances.
Most of these are issues come up in the coaching sessions I have with executives. There are a lot of steps one can take to avoid falling into the power-traps of leadership.
What Followers Can Do
If bad leaders are to be stopped or slowed, followers must play a bigger part. Everyone is a follower no matter what your position in an organization.
But many followers consider the price of intervention to be too high. There are real benefits for going along, along with real costs and risks for not going along. We often choose to mind our own business. Nevertheless, incompetent and unethical leaders cannot function without followers.
Kellerman suggests followers can strengthen their ability to resist bad leaders by observing these guidelines:
o Empower yourself.
o Be loyal to the whole, not to any one person.
o Be skeptical; leaders are not gods.
o Find allies; develop your own sources of information.
o Be a watchdog (especially if the board seems too compliant).
o Take collective action (even on a modest scale, such as assembling a small group to talk to the boss).
o Hold leaders accountable; use checks and balances already in place.
Luckily, more followers are stepping up to the plate, demonstrating a willingness to share responsibilities, power, authority and influence. They know that once bad leaders are entrenched, they seldom change or quit of their own volition. It’s up to us to insist on change – or an early exit.
The path to exercising empowerment is often full of dangers, and I recommend not going it alone. Having a trusted coach can help you take the road less traveled.
What’s your opinion?

Are We Flawed as Followers?

With so many corporate leaders in disrepute, what can be done about bad leadership? Perhaps some of today’s leaders get away with various and sundry peccadilloes because their followers fail to demand accountability.
“Leading in America has never been easy”, writes Barbara Kellerman in The End of Leadership. “But now, it is more difficult than ever – not only because we have too many bad leaders, but because we have too many bad followers.”
As followers, many of us are too timid, disengaged or alienated to speak up, making it easy for corporate leaders to do what they want – and what’s best for their bank accounts.
The leadership-development industry has become huge, with $50 billion a year spent on corporate training. Shouldn’t the curriculum include elements of followership? Everyone, including the CEO, has to answer to someone, be it a board, stockholders or a senior team.
Question These Assumptions
Kellerman asks those in charge of leadership-development programs to question the assumptions the industry promotes:
o Leadership can be learned by most – quickly and easily; over months, weeks or weekends.
o Leaders matter more than anyone else.
o Followers are secondary.
o Context is tertiary.
She also suggests several important mindset shifts based on these assumptions:
1. We cannot stop or slow bad leadership by changing human nature. No amount of preaching or sermonizing – no exhortations to virtuous conduct, uplifting thoughts or wholesome habits – will obviate the fact that our nature is constant (even when our behaviors change).
2. We cannot stop or slow bad leadership without stopping and slowing bad followership. Leaders and followers are always interdependent.
3. We cannot stop or slow bad leadership by sticking our heads in the sand. Amnesia, wishful thinking, the lies we tell as individuals and organizations, and all of the other mind games we play to deny or distort reality get us nowhere. Avoidance inures us to the costs and casualties of bad leadership, allowing them to fester.
What do you think about Kellerman’s observations on bad leadership? Are we being naively optimistic to think that followers in organizations can speak up and stop bad leadership? Tell me what your opinion is.