7 Reasons You Could Be an Underperforming Leader

You’ve been in a leadership role for quite some time yet you’re not satisfied with your effectiveness; your currency in the organization is not at a level you would like it to be and your views are at times ignored.

You believe you are not achieving your potential as a leader.


Here are some reasons you could be an underperforming leader.

Textbook mania

You continue to practice text book leadership; what the academics and experts preach about what it takes to be a great leader — many of whom, by the way, have never had any significant leadership role in an organization.

The pundits tend to espouse common leadership practices that are followed by the crowd of leaders who all aspire to step up their game and stand out from one another.

Amazing leadership isn’t about doing what the books say; it’s about doing what has been proven to work by gifted leaders who have built organizations to flourish in a world of uncertainty, unpredictability and relentless change.


You are uncomfortable stepping away from using the common tools that the leadership community sees as the requisite to effective leadership.

As a result you are seen to be the same as other leaders, offering nothing particular special or unique. You have a blend in brand as a result.

Great leaders don’t emulate leadership best practices; what others do that is viewed by the leadership community as the basic practices for effective leadership. They are constantly trying new things depending on the needs of the people on their team.

Great leaders understand that to get the best out of people they must prescribe an approach that fits their team’s particular needs and wants, not by forcing a common blueprint on them — Roy, start with a clean sheet

Risk aversion

You tend to be a bit risk averse; believing in substantial study and analysis before making a decision. The problem with this philosophy is that action takes a back seat to study unnecessarily is some cases where the consequences of a decision do not dictate exhaustive study; it’s more appropriate to do a cursory business case and get on with it.

Standout leaders know that results happen when action is taken and as long as you are in the study mode, nothing gets done. Their approach is to do just the right amount of study to justify taking a particular action — a $10,000 investment should have minimal study; a $1,000,000 investment considerably more — and ACT.

And they know that learning on the run is paramount when your bias is to act not study; they pay attention to what is being experienced and discovered during implementation and adjust their action accordingly.


You delegate too much and have no filter for determining when it is appropriate to pass things off to others and when to take personal responsibility for a task. Again, this tendency to over-delegate is probably because much of what is written about leadership encourages more delegation not less.

Special leaders know when it is appropriate to delegate and when it is not; the filter they use is the strategic game plan of their organization. If taking action personally is vital to achieving a strategic goal, they don’t delegate it — they take it on as a personal task.

Taking personal responsibility communicates two things to people on their team: one, it says that the task not being delegated has a high priority and two, that the leader is afraid to get their hands dirty and do the work.


You are an impersonal communicator; you use all the new digital tools available to you but avoid old school press the flesh methods — even in COVID times virtual flesh pressing is still a better alternative.

You may think that digitized communications is a more effective and productive way to go, but you’re missing the point. Productive communications is not about ‘productivity’, it’s about capturing the hearts and minds of people and convincing them to change their ways and follow the organization on a new path, for example.

Brilliant leaders spend much of their time face-to-face with people in their organization, discussing their future and asking for their conviction and support — ‘What do you need?’ is the operative question they ask.

Office time

You spend too much time in your office which makes you out of touch with what’s going on in your organization and therefore unable to create interventions to address problems and dysfunction.

Your office isn’t a COVID bubble; (virtually) get out of it — Roy, popper

Memorable leaders try and minimize office time and try to schedule it out of the normal hours when people are on the job in order to make themselves available to others. In addition, they spend an inordinate amount of time with the frontline gathering information on customer perception and to fuel the improvements that will make the frontline job easier and more effective.

Left brainer

You are governed by your logical, practical side — your left brain; your right brain or emotional side stays in the background.

You let your mind lead you rather than allowing your feelings to play an active role. You approach problem solving from an intellectual solution perspective rather than looking for solutions that trigger the feelings in people.

Fantastic leaders show their emotions to others in their daily routine; people get that they’re ‘feelers’ and that they allow emotions to play a role in the decisions they make rather than relying on theory alone that can minimize concern for the human component. Their natural ability to empathize with others allows them to strike a steady balance between what should work (on paper) versus what will work (through the energy of turned on committed employees).

If you feel you’re falling behind in your progression as a leader, it may be because of the reasons discussed here. In my experience, 90% of the people falling short of their expectations as a leader fall victim to these very common ailments.

They can be successfully remediated and your leadership competencies will turn around.

Related: This Is How to Win With a Boomer Boss