I recently finished reading Why Smart Executives Fail by Sydney Finkelstein. While some observers try to argue that companies fail because the lack of intelligence of their senior executives, Finkelstein argues that it is flaws in the personality that cause failure. Mimicking Steven Covey, Finkelstein lists the seven habits of spectacularly unsuccessful people:
- They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environments. The CEO believes he is personally pre-eminent. They see themselves as auteurs rather than managers. They typically use intimidation as a management technique.
- They identify so completely with the company that there is no boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interest. They start to use corporate funds to back their own philanthropic interests.
- They think they have all the answers. The CEO becomes a decisive control freak who refuses to take advice and suggestions.
- They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who is not 100 percent behind them.
- They are consummate company spokespersons obsessed with the company image. They pitch the new vision and become pop icons. The obsession with image means they have little time for operational details.
- They underestimate major obstacles. The typical reaction to failing to reach a goal is to escalate the commitment; it is full steam into the abyss and refusing to accept that they are fallible.
- They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past. They revert to using the same tactics that worked during their defining moment.
In a previous blog, I noted that the desire to win is the key drive for a successful manager, and this manifests itself in the form of aggression, persistence and verbal fluency. However as can be seen from the list above if you have too much competitive drive, or insufficient self-control to moderate it then such a person may well contain the seeds of their own destruction.
Organisations that have a management culture that uses intimidation, eliminates critics, and fails to accept mistakes and cut their losses are particularly vulnerable.
Does this management culture describe your organisation?
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