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Zenger and Folkman's 10 fatal leadership flaws

Are you prepared to recognize your own weaknesses?

Have you ever worked for a leader who didn't learn from his mistakes, who made key decisions without involving his team, or who resisted new ideas?

These are all common mistakes made by ineffective leaders. They can demoralize and disengage a team, limit progress, and even derail an organization.

As a leader, it's important to be aware of common leadership mistakes, so that you can avoid them. In this article, we'll look at the 10 most common flaws, and we'll discuss what you can do to avoid each one.

About the Tool

Leadership consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman used two studies to identify their 10 fatal leadership flaws.

In the first study, they collected 360-Degree Feedback on more than 450 Fortune 500 executives. They then identified the most commonly shared characteristics of 31 of those executives who were fired over the three-year period that followed.

In the second study, they analyzed 360-degree feedback data from more than 11,000 leaders, and singled out the bottom 10 percent. They compared the ineffective leaders with the fired ones, and, from this, identified the 10 most common leadership flaws.

They published their findings in a June 2009 Harvard Business Review article, "Ten Fatal Flaws That Derail Leaders."

Their 10 flaws are:

  1. Lacking energy and enthusiasm.

  2. Settling for mediocre performance.

  3. Lacking clear vision.

  4. Using poor judgment.

  5. Being unwilling to collaborate.

  6. Not "walking the talk."

  7. Resisting new ideas.

  8. Not learning from mistakes.

  9. Lacking interpersonal skills.

  10. Failing to develop others.

Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review. From "Ten Fatal Flaws That Derail Leaders" by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, June 2009. Copyright © 2009 by the Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation; all rights reserved.

Overcoming the 10 Fatal Flaws

Let's now look at each of Zenger and Folkman's 10 flaws, and discuss what you can do to overcome each one.

1. Lacking Energy and Enthusiasm

Successful leaders are full of enthusiasm, and their energy is contagious. They throw themselves into everything that they do, and this energetic approach engages the people around them.

Leaders who lack energy and enthusiasm rarely support new initiatives. This can be because they fear the additional workload, or because they simply don't have the energy to inspire their teams to change.