A while back, I was assisting a mid-sized company with their interview process for a new CEO. The Board of Directors believed the organization’s issues were directly related to their ‘leader’. They spoke of lack of communication, poor decision-making, and philosophical differences in the direction of the company. I asked them what The Board’s role was in their ‘leader’s’ failures, and they replied that they played no role at all. They failed to realize that leadership is not a solo sport.
We cannot have leaders without followers, collaborators, and advisors. It is impossible to lead people who don’t have a stake in failure, are afraid to progress grow, or who’s mindset is cemented in the past. Leaders are ultimately responsible for end results, but everyone – from a Board member to the newest employee – has a hand in the success, or failure, of an organization.
The organization cannot be successful if you, as the leader, are not looking towards the entire team, partners, and/or stakeholders to find solutions. You are not a silver bullet or the one and only solution provider. You are the leader of a team of solution providers. There may be some leaders out there who believe ‘I can fix it alone’, but even they will fail unless everyone is moving forward with collaborative effort. Not everyone may agree, but everyone is responsible for achieving results.
People will naturally look to blame someone for failure, but rarely do they look inward towards themselves. The CEO I was helping to replace had failed – plain and simple – but the Board needs to realize they are complicit in the results, whether good or bad, and should take some responsibility. Before I made a recommendation for a new CEO, I had to consider the organizational dynamics as well as its ability and willingness to change. What organizations think they want is a leader who will heal all their ills and move people automatically into action and alignment. If the organization isn’t willing to contribute to the vision and direction of the leader, then it is destined to fail.
What To Look For
Companies will go through three CEOs until they realize that most of their ills are systemic, internal, and require a shift towards taking responsibility to change. A leader capable of helping guide an organization through these changes will enlist the support of others and actively invite them to participate in developing and implementing solutions. If you think your CEO is not leading, look around and make sure you have attempted to be part of the solution. The way to success is working hard together. That is what we need – not a silver bullet.