Thoughts on Leadership: The 10 Major Causes of Failure in Leadership

“Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.”  — Jim Rohn In last week’s message I introduced the Major Attributes of Leadership from The Think and Grow Rich Workbook. This list of powerful characteristics is helpful for focusing your mind and achieving your goals.

As I continued to work my way through the workbook I found a corresponding piece on failure in leadership and wanted to share it with you. It reminds me of a philosophy of Jim Rohn, one of America’s leading self help philosophers, “You can learn from other people’s mistakes, so that you don’t do what they did.” In fact, he would recommend you take young children to a prison to show them what you don’t want to do.

These are among the more common of the causes of failure in leadership. Any one of these faults is sufficient to induce failure. 

The 10 Major Causes of Failure in Leadership

1. Inability to organize details. Efficient leadership calls for ability to organize and master details. No genuine leader is ever “too busy” to do anything which may be required of him in his capacity as leader.

2. Unwillingness to render humble service. Truly great leaders are willing, when occasion demands, to perform any sort of labor which they would ask another to perform.

3. Expectation of pay for what they “know” instead of what they do with that which they know. The world does not pay men for that which they “know.” It pays them for what they do, or induce others to do.

4. Fear of competition from followers. The leader who fears that one of his followers may take his position is practically sure to realize that fear sooner or later. The able leader trains understudies to whom he may delegate, at will, any of the details of his position. Only in this way may a leader multiply himself and prepare himself to be at many places, and give attention to many things at one time.

5. Lack of imagination. Without imagination, the leader is incapable of meeting emergencies and of creating plans by which to guide his followers efficiently.

6. Selfishness. The leader who claims all the honor for the work of his followers is sure to be met by resentment. The really great leader claims none of the honors. He is contented to see the honors, when there are any, go to his followers, because he knows that most men will work harder for commendation and recognition than they will for money alone.

7. Intemperance. Followers do not respect an intemperate leader. Moreover, intemperance in any of its various forms destroys the endurance and vitality of all who indulge in it.

8. Disloyalty. The leader who is not loyal to his trust, and to his associates, those above him, and those below him, cannot long maintain his leadership. Lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure in every mark of life.

9. Emphasis of the “authority” of leadership. The efficient leader leads by encouraging, and not by trying to instill fear in the hearts of his followers. The leader who tries to impress his followers with his “authority” comes within the category of leadership through force. If a leader is a real leader, he will have no need to advertise that fact except by his conduct.

10. Emphasis of title. The competent leader requires no “title” to give him the respect of his followers. The man who makes too much over his title generally has little else to emphasize.

As you consider the ten major causes of leadership failure, don’t be afraid to take an honest look at yourself. If any of these faults are part of your business, take action today! As Rohn points out, “When we focus on our mistakes as an opportunity to learn, we are much more likely to not experience failure over the longer term.” We have to learn from mistakes to become a great leader. The good news is: by paying attention to these causes and noticing their warnings, you can avoid disaster and sustain the kind of leadership that is healthy and fulfilling both for yourself and your followers.