Leadership barriers: Are they harming your company?

Barriers are obstacles that prevent peak performance. How many are you unintentionally creating in your company? Leadership barriers start at the top and affect your whole organization.

Their symptoms take many forms and hide in many places including your culture, processes and strategy. Worst of all is their negative affect on your employees.

Barriers and their symptoms may not be obvious to you, so you must purposely and passionately hunt for them. This is a never-ending process, and how well you accomplish it will determine how well your company performs.

Impact of barriers
Nearly 95 percent of executives in a recent study emphasized that an organization is only as good as its top people. From my experience working with CEOs and senior executives, unmanaged personalities and personal issues are the predominant leadership barriers.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation. “Joe,” the CEO of “Alpha Company,” is conflict adverse. He avoids counseling his vice president “Fred” who is a controlling, quick-tempered, micromanager. Just as an illness presents symptoms like a fever, symptoms of Joe’s unmanaged leadership barrier — fear of conflict — inevitably present themselves in his company.

Because no news from Fred is good news to Joe, Fred continues his micromanaging and requires every decision to be approved by him.

As the company has grown, Fred has become a bottleneck to making timely decisions. Even though Fred works more than 60 hours per week, he is overwhelmed by his self-imposed workload.
In addition, employees are afraid to voice their opinions because of Fred’s temper.

High-performers are frustrated with their lack of empowerment and development. They quickly resign, leaving only the poor performers who tolerate (or just ignore) Fred.
There are endless combinations of leadership barriers and their symptoms.

Here are a few additional examples that may exist in your company:

■  Leadership barriers: fear, conflict-adverse, procrastination, denial and lack of communication or candor.

■  Culture and strategy symptoms: strategy, vision, values and goals are unclear; as a result of unmanaged, strong personalities, culture just “happens.”

■  Process and procedure symptoms: they evolve based upon what is best for the organization, department or individual, instead of what is best for the customer; processes are bureaucratic, slow and inefficient; impact on employees; employees are forced to set their own priorities because they are unaware of or confused about the company’s goals. This confusion causes arguments over “who is right.”

The symptoms of organizational barriers can be disastrous to your company. How many of these are in your organization? Once you start noticing the symptoms, you should be able to trace them back to your own leadership barriers and take appropriate action.

Cheryl B. McMillan is chair, Northeast Ohio, for Vistage International