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Bad leaders drive top execs away

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The vast majority of top executives will consider changing jobs to get away from a bad leader, a recent survey shows.

According to the survey, more than 97% said it was of the utmost importance for them to respect and work well with their direct superiors in an organisation, and that leadership concerns would definitely contribute to a decision to look at career options elsewhere.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, says the value of leadership as a determinant of the success of a company has never been more pronounced than it is today.

“It is clear throughout both the public and the private sectors: bad leadership is a recipe for bad business and dismal performance. In fact, recent research from one of the top global business institutions, London Business School, indicates that organisational performance is directly impacted by the mind-set of the leader,” she says.

As noted in the latest Jack Hammer Executive Report, 50% of respondents said they would leave their company if they did not receive a promotion within a specified period of time. But 91% of respondents said organisational culture such as work cohesion, teamwork, trust and collaboration – or rather the lack thereof – would be cause enough to consider alternative job opportunities. Undoubtedly, the greatest drain on talent is a lack of quality leadership at the top.

“Great leaders earn great reputations and attract great people,” says Goodman-Bhyat. “This ultimately translates into the bottom line, which is why there is a clear commercial imperative for great leadership. A leader who is not able to galvanise a team will soon see productivity, motivation retention and business suffer.

“Just as great leadership reputations draw the best talent, so bad leadership will push even the best, most motivated talent away,” she says.

“Most top executives are no longer willing to endure the professional and psychological impact of poor leadership in the hope that things will normalise or that the ‘horrible boss’ will jump ship at some stage. In fact, knowing that ineffective, immature leadership could impact on their own performance and reputation over time, top performing senior executives become active job seekers, as they are unwilling tolerate an untenable working environment,” says Goodman-Bhyat.

It is therefore important that companies choose not only their executive and senior management teams with care, but very much so the leaders who are in charge of these teams.

“Furthermore, companies should keep tabs on how leaders perform over time – not just their bottom line results, but also the morale and performance within the teams they manage. And should a potential challenge be identified, this should be timeously yet diplomatically and discreetly addressed,” she says.

Meaningful feedback for top leaders is another challenge to overcome. As executives reach the top rungs of the corporate ladder, their direct reports will be understandably cautious about giving honest feedback to poor performing bosses, for fear of sanction. As a result, leaders may be oblivious to their bad rating by key stakeholders.

Strategies and tools being used by organisations include a ‘360 degree feedback’ process, or other team interventions by leadership development consultants or coaches, who are skilled in identifying issues and challenges in executive teams. As objective third parties, they are able to facilitate open, honest discussions, which might otherwise be too sensitive or potentially hostile to handle directly.

Goodman-Bhyat says the top four bad behaviours in leaders, which will make a company’s top talent hit the road, are:
* A real or perceived lack of integrity;
* Inconsistency and unfulfilled promises;
* Internal politicking and back-stabbing behaviour; and
* Unfair or unrealistic demands which become invasive on personal life.

“As management guru Peter Drucker notes, the first and foremost job of leaders is to take charge of their own energy and then help orchestrate the energy of those around them,” says Goodman-Bhyat. “It is the job of the teams under leaders to make the implementation of the business imperatives work. It is the job of the leaders to make the teams work. And that is done through emotionally intelligent leadership.”