The 3 Reasons Most Leaders Fail

A study by the Centre for Creative Leadership shows that approximately 40% of new CEOs fail outright within the first 18 months on the job. And, an even larger percentage fails to live up to the expectations of those that hired them. When getting into a leadership position, it is important to understand why leaders fail because it can help you avoid making the same mistakes they did. It is one thing to fail for lack of ability, and it is even sadder to fail for reasons that are entirely in your power to control.


Here are the 3 most common reasons why most leaders fail:


Shift in focus

A change in focus can occur in various ways. However, most of the time, leaders just lose sight of what’s important. The sharp focus that helped them reach the top of the ladder disappears. They start getting distracted by leadership trappings like authority, wealth and notoriety. One feature that distinguishes leaders from the rest is their ability to think big. When focus shifts, the same leaders quickly start thinking small. As a result, they become too authoritative, micromanage everything which leads them to focus on things that would rather be left to others. In short, these leaders become consumed by trivial and unimportant things. This tendency is worsened by an inclination towards perfectionism.

An obsession with perfection can cause a leader to focus on “doing” instead of “becoming.” Good leadership lies in a person. When a leader becomes too action-oriented, they might lose touch with what is important, which is developing themselves. To prevent yourself from failing, always ask yourself what your primary focus is. This will help remind you what is important and will get your focus back on track.


Hari Ravichandran, the CEO and Founder of Jump Ventures and iSubscribed knows firsthand the pain that comes with failure. This was after an ad-based company with over 3,900 employees globally, and over a million websites he had built was stripped down to a 14 staff company with only 2% of its customers on board. According to him, the failure was a result of focusing on the wrong things. Fortunately, he was able to realize this mistake and used the failure to turn everything around for the good of the company.

Lack of proper communication skills

Poor communication is usually caused by a lack of focus, which results in disorientation. How do you expect your followers to understand what you are saying when you are not sure what it is you are trying to communicate? Sometimes, leaders just fall into the divining trap; they believe that those employees that are truly committed will sense their goals and do what they want without being told. When the employees misunderstand, the leaders see it as a lack of effort or commitment, instead of their own communication negligence. If you don’t want to fail as a leader, learn to say what you mean and want to be done as simply and as directly as possible.


Richard Branson epitomizes the aspects of great communication skills. He never shies away from asking questions and is open to learning. He inspires his team with great ideas, which he communicates and articulates concretely.


Clarity of purpose is the starting point for all effective communication, which is key to a successful leadership. Only when you are entirely clear on what you want to communicate will the hard work of communicating pay its dividends.

Poor People Skills

Leadership is about making connections, growing trust, building solid groups and using brilliant interpersonal skills. Great people skills are crucial when it comes to effective leadership. A great example of how poor people skills causes leaders to fail is Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines. After a video of a passenger being aggressively dragged off their overbooked aircraft went viral, all he had to say was that he was sorry for having to re-accommodate such customers. This statement felt cold, arrogant and prideful, which only added to the mess. As a leader, he failed to make a connection and show empathy, which would have turned the tide of the situation. Instead, he should have responded with humility to redeem his company and show its commitment to offering top quality services, friendliness, grace, and resilience.


Leaders who don’t form connections and create an atmosphere of trust and collaboration pay a high cost for it. Having good people skills means that you are intentional about building relationships and connecting with those around you. A good leader should never underestimate the value of good people skills.

If you notice that you carry any of these warning signs, now is the time to protect yourself from failure. As you consider these three warning signs of leadership, do not be afraid to take an honest look at yourself. When you pay attention to these signs and heed their warnings, you can avoid failure and sustain the kind of leadership that is healthy for you, your followers and your company.