Why Companies Fail? (Part 2)

Khaled Amin hates work. Irrespective of the weather conditions, he finds waking up in the morning to be an extremely difficult job. Every morning, he fights a stronger power that forces his hand to reach out to the snooze button. Finally, and almost after half an hour, his will to survive (for another month perhaps) beats his depression. Possibly because he knows he is not alone!

Do you know Khaled?

I know him.

Khaled Amin might be a fictitious name, but his story is frighteningly common.

Poor Leadership

There are claims that motivation is an internal drive – some people are self-motivated, while others are not. Jim Collins supports this argument. He believes that successful companies have a knack for hiring the self-motivated people. He believes that investing in motivating people is a waste of time and effort.

However, there are other theories and frameworks for motivation that focus on identifying and targeting individuals’ talents that when addressed do ignite self motivation. One of my favourites is strengths-based development, which is a topic that I discussed in my earlier article “Strengths-based Development”. This framework for motivation is fairly simple: people like to do things they do well. I couldn’t agree more.

However, both models share a common belief that leadership, and by leadership we mean true leadership, is what makes great companies. Jim Collins calls it the type five leadership in his remarkable book “From Good To Great”. A type five leader organizes groups effectively, achieves targets and has a vision. However, on top of all leadership skills, he has a unique blend of humility and will that’s required for true greatness.

Everyone of us has an old experience with a manager returning to tear down his department, after attending one of these so-called leadership courses, in a failed attempt to apply some leadership concepts,  by which she was inspired, but which she didn’t truly capture.

Despite his analytical approach to the subject, Collins couldn’t avoid the emphasis on the role of leadership in the boom and bust of businesses. Critics believe that the leadership has been exhausted by misuse, and who can blame them! Everyone of us has an old experience with a manager returning to tear down his department, after attending one of these so-called leadership courses, in a failed attempt to apply some leadership concepts,  by which she was inspired, but which she didn’t truly capture.  This has given true, and sadly rare, leadership a mythical status.

Failure is usually a result of a sequence of unfortunate insignificant events, go at best unnoticed but more frequently invoked by poor leadership.

Sadly, poor leadership distracts management from focusing on the right things, rewards wrong attitude, sets wrong priorities, misunderstands signs, and much more. Scholars of complex systems, and indeed corporates are, believe that the failure of such systems is rarely caused by overwhelmingly catastrophic  events. Failure is usually a result of a sequence of unfortunate insignificant events, that go at best unnoticed, but more frequently, evoked by poor leadership.

No matter, though, how much we discuss leadership, it remains one of the most controversial topics; largely because of its qualitative nature and its mythical connotation. Despite its foggy definition, leadership will remain a primary determinant of corporate greatness.

To be continued.

Image By Flickr Toby Mattingly

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