Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives

By Dan Simmons

You’ve probably heard of a book titled The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People by Steven R. Covey. As I got to thinking, I thought, what about a blog on “The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives”? Leadership is a hard thing to teach. I recently sent an email to my clients about the need for self-evaluation of all leaders within an organization. While it drew an interesting correlation between the Godfather and balance of leadership, it spoke the truth.

In 2004, Dartmouth College professor Sydney Finkelstein published the book Why Smart Executives Fail.  During the research he conducted for the book, he discovered that executives working at companies that became complete failures all shared seven habits. Finkelstein aptly named these habits (as you might have already guessed) “The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives.”  In the interest of brevity, I’ve simply listed them below.

  • Habit #1—They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment.
  • Habit #2—They identify so completely with the company that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests.
  • Habit #3—They think they have all the answers.
  • Habit #4—They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them.
  • Habit #5—They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image.
  • Habit #6—They underestimate obstacles.
  • Habit #7—They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past.

For more information, check out Sydney Finkelstein’s blog

As a manager or team leader, how do you stack up in regards to these habits?  Do you practice them at all . . . or maybe just a little?  Do you see them in others?  If so, work now to eliminate these habits—wherever they exist—before they lead your company down the wrong path.

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