The 3 Deadly Sins of Poor Leadership, Part 2

In a previous posting I began a series on the 3 Deadly Sins of Poor Leadership. My initial posting focused on not moving fast enough to replace poor performers, either for performance or behavioural reasons.  This is especially damaging to the CEO or team leader’s credibility, since everyone in the organisation knows who is not performing (remember, employees watch upper management and talk circulates quickly).  Everyone watches the CEO to determine her level of courage and leadership.  Keeping poor performing executives is also damaging to the overall culture, sowing the seeds of mistrust and lack of professionalism.

Today I consider Leadership Deadly Sin #2, Poor Communication, as both debilitating and insidious, and unfortunately far too common.

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.  ~Tony Robbins

The 2nd Deadly Sin of Poor Leadership is when those in leadership positions fail to establish frequent open and direct communication with their direct reports and others whom they manage.  Instead they rely on their direct reports to come to them when they need to talk.  The fact is, the leader sets the tone.  If the leader doesn’t reach out regularly to have open conversations with members of her team, then they won’t either.

There is no leadership without engagement, and there is no engagement without communication.

Consider the example of the Senior VP of Manufacturing who constantly says, “I’m easy to talk with. If my staff have an issue or a problem, my door is always open”.  The fact is, unless  the SVP establishes a habit and pattern of regular an open communications with his staff, only a few will take the initiative to engage and discuss issues. If the leader doesn’t reach out and meet one on one with their team on a regular basis, then the team won’t reach back.  As a result, communications, open dialogue, transparency and the flow of information is curtailed. And respect in leadership tends to erode.

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”  ~General Colin Powell

Many leaders erroneously believe that communication is up to the other person.  One of these erroneous beliefs is that since they hire professionals and pay them well, “If they need help they will come and ask.”

emailI have also known CEOs and senior executives who are uncomfortable with the leadership obligation of direct, face-to-face conversations and who avoid regular dialogues with their direct reports.  And in some extreme cases I have known a few leaders to hide behind the excuse of “being too busy” to have face-to-face performance reviews and instead send out their performance evaluations via email!  After working hard all year, how would you feel to receive a performance review from your boss through email rather than face to face?  Even if it was an excellent review, wouldn’t you want to discuss it face to face?  To probe further and learn more?

One of the key obligations of effective leadership is to develop a culture of frequent, direct, straight-forward, open communication.

The role of leadership is to create more leaders, not more followers!  ~Ralph Nader

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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2 Responses to The 3 Deadly Sins of Poor Leadership, Part 2

  1. Yes, and communication without a purpose or meaning or cause, will also fall short.


  2. Pingback: The 3 Deadly Sins of Poor Leadership: Part 3 | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

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