Recently, I summed up in one sentence exactly why people quit their jobs. Well, actually, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton did, stating that the real reason is due to bad managers. That's based on decades of data and interviews with 25 million employees, Gallup found.
Naturally, the next question should be why? This is what I aim to answer here as a follow up: "Why do leaders fail at their jobs, exactly?"
First, we need a clear definition of what great leadership looks like, as a backdrop to answer that question in one succinct sentence.
I'm going to put everything on the line here. If you were to ask these ten of the world's most successful leaders about their roles as CEOs of their respective companies, I would wager that every single one of them would tell you that a leader's ultimate role (including their own) is to lift up their employees and help them to reach their fullest potential so they can thrive in the workplace. Anyone want to take me up on that?
And the reason they do it is two-fold: 1) They KNOW this way of leading has immense competitive advantage; 2) They CARE about their employees, so they choose to serve them well because when you do, research says they'll be engaged and do great work -- the whole company succeeds.
The Reason Leaders Fail, in 1 Sentence
Robert K. Greenleaf, a world-renowned thought-leader and the founder of the modern servant leadership movement, wrote these famous words in his legendary essay "The Servant as Leader," published in 1970. This, in essence, sums up the entire reason why leaders fail, if they don't heed the following advice by Greenleaf:
The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.
When you fail to serve, you fail to lead. As I've written countless times in the past, whatever your status or rank, serving first as a leader is for the other person's benefit. You selflessly focus attention away from yourself and put the spotlight on others -- the people doing the work.
Greenleaf noticed from decades of observing, studying, and writing about these leaders, that they got the best out of their employees; the workforce was more motivated, more creative, and more productive, which led to great business results.
Servant leadership, in the most conventional business sense, is a total commitment to creating the conditions for superior performance (by serving first). This is what it's all about. The challenge for most leaders today is to set aside "self" and focus on others to help them reach remarkable results. Who's up for it?