A Failure of Leadership: What Business Owners Can Learn

failure of leadership

Once again the government is there to teach us a valuable leadership lesson. And this has nothing to do with politics or party affiliation. It’s not about Democrat or Republican, nor about whether you like or dislike the current administration. It’s about setting and following through with clear expectations and consequences.

The Story:

Hillary Clinton sets up her own server in her home and uses it for all of her email communications, both personal and business, while she is Secretary of State. At the same time, government employees are told to conduct all government business through .gov email addresses.

“Leaders” in government, including Mrs. Clinton tell their employees to only use their .gov emails for government business. All government employees sign form OF-109 confirming that they have returned all unclassified documents to a responsible official upon their resignation or retirement from government service.

However, whether she signed the document or not, it is unclear if Mrs. Clinton ensured her documents made it to a responsible government official when she left the Secretary of State’s office. And she isn’t saying whether she did. Dan Metcalfe explains this situation in a Politico article. While it’s a little too snarky for my taste it does lay out the case from the viewpoint of someone who would know.

Where was the oversight? Where was the commitment to policy? To expectations? And what were the consequences of following or not following policy?

The Business Case:

This type of situation is played out on a daily basis in businesses around the world. There are employees making their own decisions about how they are going to conduct themselves and which rules they are going to follow. And there isn’t anyone holding them accountable. This doesn’t only impact that employee. It impacts the entire company and its ability to succeed.

1. The leadership is in less control and in many cases is unaware of the impact the actions of these employees is having on their bottom line.

2. Other employees are watching and making their own decisions based on what they see. They are also developing a perception of the company leadership — one that usually isn’t very good.

3. Good employees leave because they see the negative effect of these situations and don’t want to be collateral damage.

4. In many cases, the company’s finances are negatively impacted as well.

The Solution:

In order for an organization to run smoothly and properly address the challenges it encounters, the leadership has to be in control. That means they have to not only create expectations with consequences, but they have to communicate them consistently, and most importantly, follow through with them.

People need to know that there really are consequences to their actions — both good and bad. It’s up to the leadership to follow through with those consequences so everyone knows they are real.

This is how they build respect and how they ensure people will follow them. It’s how they move forward effectively. The cleanup that happens when someone doesn’t follow the policies and guidelines in an organization takes everyone’s energy away from the goal.

Isn’t the point of leadership to get people to follow you to the goals you seek? Employees need to know you mean it — all the time. Otherwise you are telling them you don’t mean it at all. And that is a failure of leadership.

Hillary Clinton photo via Shutterstock


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

2 Reactions
  1. I have seen this way too many times in businesses. When bad things happen, good employees always leave to look for greener pastures.

    • Exactly so. It’s such a big problem for business leaders. I’d like to see them decide to push through their discomfort with holding everyone accountable and enacting consequences than have to deal with the fallout of quality employees leaving.