Why People Fail at Leadership

This week’s tip: People are the fuel that keeps your business moving forward.

Without people, you won’t have much of a sustainable business, and after 24 years of leading people, I can share two things definitively:

  1. Leadership is not easy
  2. Leadership is not for everyone

Being a successful leader requires much more than just having a specific title or holding a certain position. You need to listen, empathize, take responsibility, make decisions, and do about a hundred other things amazingly well! 😊

Since most of us have worked for at least one bad boss, I know it won’t surprise you that many people who currently occupy leadership roles are quite bad at it.

Heck, maybe you’re a struggling leader… I know I used to be, so believe me, there is still plenty of time to change your ways and be the leader you’ve always aspired to be!

Here’s the harsh truth behind why many people fail at leadership:

  1. You’re being inauthentic
  2. You believe it’s a position, not a mindset
  3. You’re lacking confidence

While these aren’t the only reasons people fail, they’re significant, and they’re all within your control. That means, if you’re suffering because of them, you have the ability, and soon the knowledge to change each one!


People can sense when you’re being inauthentic, and it repels them. For people to want to follow you, they have to be able to trust you. When you try to be someone you’re not or put on a persona that you think will drive results, it’s too challenging to sustain so at some point it becomes apparent to your team, who then quickly lose respect for you. If you want to be a successful leader, it’s important to be genuine and honest with your team. When there is bad news to deliver, deliver it without delay. When a problem arises, take responsibility first and figure out how to move forward second. Doing these things will help you build trust and credibility.

Believing Leadership Is a Position Not a Mindset

Many people enter leadership roles thinking they’re automatically entitled to respect and authority due to their new title or position. While you may have a certain amount of authority, it probably won’t do you much good if you haven’t yet earned the respect of your team. Respect is usually earned over time through your actions for and towards your team. This is the reason that leadership is a mindset that needs to be continuously developed and nurtured. If you want to be a successful leader, you need to be willing to put in the work and continuously develop your skills. You must be willing to make decisions based on limited knowledge, and take responsibility for your mistakes and mistakes on behalf of your team.

Lack of Confidence

Another common reason people fail at leadership is a lack of confidence. This can come from a lack of experience but even seasoned leaders can struggle with their confidence. Leaders who lack confidence are often indecisive, which can lead to employees feeling uninspired and unmotivated. It’s also important to remember that confidence is contagious—if you project confidence, your team will be more likely to feel confident as well. On the other hand, if you lack confidence, your team will likely pick up on that as well. The best way to gain confidence is by making decisions that ultimately lead to quick wins with your team. It’s always great to solicit ideas from your team on ways to eliminate waste. Implement something low-cost, look for the impact, and celebrate together… you’ll be building confidence that’s close to unstoppable!

Action Step: Take a little time to do a self-reflection exercise. Find a quiet spot and for each of the 3 reasons above, think about and then write out a time when you either struggled or excelled with that issue. Then, if your example was a struggle, think about and write out how you can handle a similar situation in the future differently. Or, if your example was how you excelled, think about and write out a time that you felt challenged or tested by your team as a leader and how you may handle a similar situation in the future differently.

Leadership is not for everyone. If you want to be a successful leader, you must avoid falling into the traps that so many others do. Be genuine and honest with your team, build their confidence by projecting confidence in yourself, and continuously develop your skills by learning about the psychology of people, leadership techniques, and industry best practices.

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