Bad Leadership Is Mostly Just Immaturity

We like to think that leadership is a skill, but a lot of it boils down to basic maturity.

Bad Leadership Is Mostly Just Immaturity

Leaders generally derail not because of a character flaw, but rather because they respond immaturely to mounting stress and change. Leaders who are immature in their thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and habits, however, are capable of recovering from their unleaderlike behavior, unlike the poor-character leaders in the previous section.


For example, one of the most important traits of great leaders is what I call the Helping trait. Leaders who are selfless, giving, and altruistic are demonstrating the mature behaviors associated with the Helping trait. However, when their helping is done in an unauthentic way, with strings attached, they are demonstrating the immature behaviors associated with that trait. Great leaders also possess a mature Disciple trait. Leaders who can follow others and who value being part of something bigger than just themselves are demonstrating the mature behaviors of this powerful trait. When leaders demonstrate a lack of belief in themselves and do not think they are worthy of success and accolades, they are showing the immature behaviors of this trait.

I have come to believe that organizations that do not compulsively develop their leaders and future leaders–through coaching, mentoring, executive development programs, action learning projects, and the like–unknowingly grow and multiply leaders with a high probability for derailment and failure. At a minimum, when an organization, leader, or future leader leaves things to chance, the probability of leader derailment or success is the same. With targeted coaching and real prescriptions for strengthening their inner and outer cores, however, leaders and future leaders can seize the considerable opportunities that await them. At the same time, they can successfully mitigate the enormous risks associated with the unrelenting pace and complexity of change they face in their part of the business world. These principles then, become the blueprint for helping you–the leader and future leader–build a strong, compelling foundation for becoming absolutely the best leader you can be.

Let’s look at the key factors and business trends that offer huge opportunities for the savvy, mature leader and potential derailment for the un-savvy, immature leader.

Business Challenges and Trends: Massive Opportunity or Potential Derailer?
Today, the pace of change in business is dramatically faster than in previous times. Top executives in firms today report fiercer competitive business environments and more globalized patterns of operations than ever. Technological advances continue to significantly impact both communication infrastructures and the strategic business decisions that executives make in terms of trade, resources, and competition. Future leaders will need to be savvy conceptual and strategic thinkers, to possess deep integrity and intellectual openness, to find innovative ways to create loyalty, to lead increasingly diverse and independent teams over which they may not always have direct authority, and to have the maturity to relinquish their own power in favor of creating and fostering collaborative approaches inside and outside their organizations.

To successfully develop this combination of inner- and outer-core capability, the leaders of the future will likely need to reinforce and intensify the thinking and behavior that propelled them to the top of their organizations in the first place. According to the Hay Group’s Leadership 2030 Research Study, if leaders want their organizations to survive and thrive in the next 20 years, they have no choice but to dramatically shift and strengthen how they lead. If the leaders themselves want to survive and thrive, they must change how they lead. To survive the future, leaders must be capable of helping their organizations win the race of innovation, global presence, and talent.


In their breakthrough study, the Hay Group identified six megatrends that will affect organizations and their leaders profoundly over the coming decades:

  • Globalization
  • Scarcity of resources
  • Demographic xhanges
  • Growing freedom of choice
  • The digital age
  • Harnessing technology

In the following sections, I identify a few of the trends that I believe will have a dramatic impact on you–the current and emerging leader–as you strive to become the absolute best leader you can be. My sincere hope, desire, and passion is that you continue to sharpen your inner core and outer core so that you recognize and embrace these challenging trends as real opportunities. They are indeed pathways to unlocking and unleashing your massive capability and to true leadership greatness.

Unrelenting Change
When meeting and coaching executives, I hear a lot about how they view change within their organizations. Most are quick to point out that the challenges their own organization face now are much more complex than they were five years ago. “Why do you think this is true?” I ask. They talk about constant internal changes in their organizations, such as structure and process changes, as well as a myriad of external challenges, such as market volatility, talent shortages, globalization, competition, technology, cost and profitability pressure, and rising customer expectations.

Innovation Imperative
Innovation. Every organization I visit, every leader I talk to, is searching for the next big idea. This imperative pressures and challenges all leaders and allv future leaders because now they must lead and participate on task forces, cross-functional teams, and participate in off-site innovation training programs. The need to excel as collaborators and mediators is no longer a nice-to-have; it is a must-have capability.In most organizations, most of the leaders and future leaders are involved in multiple innovation projects that involve searching for and implementing new products, as well as processes such as talent development initiatives, reward and recognition programs, and benchmarking projects.

It’s a Virtual World
With increased globalization, my clients have to efficiently and effectively bridge geographical, cultural, and functional boundaries. I truly believe that being effective as a virtual leader is different than being effective as a face-to-face leader. The skills of communication are critical. Possessing the capability to engage in clear, consistent, and frequent communication using a variety of collaborative technologies will continue to be important skills for all leaders and future leaders. Of course, firmly embedded in the skill of effective communication, are the inner-core elements of character, honesty and integrity.


It’s a Velcro World
Great leaders are able to velcro their people and teams to their mission, vision, and strategies. This ability will continue to be a challenge as people’s careers play an increasingly important role in their quest for self-fulfillment. Generation X and Y people crave greater convergence between their personal and professional lives. They demand recognition, self-development opportunities, and work/life balance; more than anything, they want to be engaged in their work and careers. Leaders and future leaders, given these changing demographics, will need to be diligent and passionate about generating personal loyalty among their people by building relationships with them based on rapport, trust and, credibility. Clearly, leaders who have strong inner- and outer cores will be able to Velcro their people and teams to them and to their vision, mission, and direction.

Excerpted with permission from the upcoming book Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential by John Mattone.

[Image: Flickr user Tiffany Terry]