12 differences between winning and losing leadership


Great leaders drive great organizations and great organizations produce great results. On the other hand, less than stellar results are typically produced by organizations with less than stellar leadership, begging the question, “What are the differences between winning and losing leadership styles and traits?”

Here are 12 differences worth considering:

1. Winners have a vision and communicate it often through stories and the written word. They want to engage and motivate their teams - helping staff better understand how their achievements lead to a greater good. Leaders at losing organizations have no vision and any goals that they have are aimed purely at personal gain.

2. Leaders at winning organizations lead by example. They do the things that they ask others to do. They don’t shirk responsibilities. Losers tell and don’t do. They evade responsibility if things go wrong.

3. Winners possess an “outside-in perspective” that enables them to re-imagine how things are and experience their businesses from a customer and stakeholder perspective, which enables them to identify opportunities for change. Leaders at losing organizations resist change and promote the status quo, usually out of laziness or fear of the unknown.

4. Winners never spin the facts. They prefer to keep it real and tell it like it is. Consequently, their people respect them for communicating in that fashion. Losers lie - sometimes out of spite, always because it’s easier.

5. Leaders of winning teams exhibit trust in their people, enabling empowerment and unleashing unbridled creativity. At losing teams, leaders demand that work be done their way, or no way at all!

6. Winners address conflict before it festers and effects performance and morale. Losers encourage conflict and enjoy observing their “experiments in human behavior.”

7. The best leaders manage tough personalities because they know that tough personalities can wreak havoc on an organization. The worse leaders have tough personalities and unwittingly disrupt the businesses that they manage.

8. Winning leaders focus on results and reward it! Losing leaders fail to set goals, monitor progress or reward personnel for outstanding performance.

9. Winners promote work-life balance because they understand that burned-out employees fail to deliver. Losers like to drive their teams past the point of no return believing that their people are expendable.

10. Winning organizations have leaders that stimulate collaboration. They understand that a “hero” mentality only serves to corrupt the esprit de corps so necessary for creating a corporate culture that can consistently flourish, even when facing adversity. Losing leaders prefer to remain aloof and mysterious.

11. Leaders at winning organizations explore the integration of contrasting concepts as a means of re-inventing existing products and services. Think of playing music from your phone. However, losing organizations have leaders promote linear thinking and risk avoidance.

12. Winning leaders share the wealth and feature their people’s accomplishments, whenever they can. Losing leaders steal the credit whenever they can - feeding their underlying megalomania.

To close, we could easily identify many more differences between winning and losing leaders. But the differences highlighted above should suffice to stimulate some thinking about your leadership style. If you see yourself leaning more towards the winning side, then keep up the good work: your organization is likely on a successful track. If your leanings are more toward the losing side of the leadership traits characterized above, then you may want to examine your motivations, and more importantly, begin to explore your willingness to change. After all, don’t we all want to be part of a championship-caliber business?

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About The Author

James M. Kerr
James M. Kerr

James M. Kerr is the Global Chair of the Culture Transformation Practice at N2Growth and the author of The Executive Checklist. A specialist in organizational design and cultural transformation, he has been helping clients re-imagine the way work is organized and performed for more than 25 years. Kerr’s next book is due out later in 2016 and focuses on leadership and strategy-setting.