Why Leaders Fail - Karen Shannon

Why Leaders Fail

In uncertain times, the capability of a bank to successfully navigate uncharted waters depends greatly on the abilities of their leaders and managers. This is particularly true of small organizations.

One of the top reasons new managers fail is the lack of preparation for their roles. According to research by Corporate Executive Board, only 10% of leaders surveyed said they felt well-prepared.

Surprise, You’ve Got a Promotion!

Research finds 70% who become managers were not planning on it, an indicator their readiness could be lacking. Because most managers did not necessarily intend to make the leap to leadership when the opportunity came along, it is critical they receive support and early development to be successful.

Twenty percent say their move to leadership was primarily motivated by money. Although these leaders said they enjoyed their promotion and extra pay, they also reported they are not motivated to lead others and weren’t as prepared as they would have liked. They also felt the most stress trying to find time to advance their skills.

Only 1 In 10 Managers Want a C-Seat

Few managers feel their futures could include a seat in the C-suite, resulting in a need for organizations to identify and develop lower-level managerial talent.

Of managers surveyed, 76% indicated a desire to advance to higher leadership roles over the course of their careers. But when it comes to having C-suite aspirations, only 1 in 10 frontline leaders see themselves moving into a C-level role. Organizations should be proactive about assessing for higher-level leader potential and make it a priority to develop those leaders early.

Natural For a Few, Stressful For Many

Upon looking back at their first step into leadership, leaders commonly say the transition wasn’t easy. The majority of managers surveyed (84%) revealed they were stressed by taking their first leadership role. Only 16% said the move to leadership felt natural.

Ninety percent said they felt unprepared to some extent. This lack of preparation can lead to “fake it until you make it,” with less than ideal chances of long-term success. This supports the fact that 60% of new managers fail within their first 24 months. Managers are looking for more support during their transition to leadership, and leadership development will significantly affect their success.


What Stresses Leaders Out the Most?

Frontline managers emphasized discomfort with navigating organizational politics, having time to do everything that needs to be done and finding time to advance their skills has their top three stressors.

Research from the 2019 LinkedIn learning report also indicates time as the No.1 barrier that holds people back from learning. The report goes on to say that employees who spend more than five hours per week learning are more likely to know where they want to go in their careers, find greater purpose and feel less stressed. Planned development is critical for leaders to continue to advance, and organizations that build in formal time for growth and skill-building are giving their leaders what they need to be more prepared for their transition.

Millennials Lead Work / Home Separation

Overwhelmingly, leaders say the skills they learned also improve the quality of their personal relationships. Although they admit they have less time and energy to pursue personal interests, they are proud to tell friends and family about their work.

There are generational differences in how this translates to work-life balance. Of the Gen X leaders, 23% reported that no matter what they were doing, they feel they must check their email or be connected to work, compared to only 13% of millennial leaders, This contradicts a common image of Millennials – a generation that grew up constantly connected to the digital world. Of the generations, Millennials were most likely to indicate they feel more stressed at home and that they keep their personal and work life completely separate.

What Drives Leaders?

Across leader level, gender and generation, the top three feelings leaders selected to describe their own leadership experience were excitement, pride and confidence. Leaders report being driven by their connections with others and helping teams and colleagues across the organization succeed. They also feel rewarded by having more influence over what happens in the organization.

Providing development opportunities to leaders and emerging leaders ensures that they have the essential skills, knowledge and expertise to lead, motivate and manage their teams. Identifying potential leaders early and investing in their growth can result in long-term benefits including talent retention. Organizational development can transform banks and better prepare their leadership team, resulting in higher productivity, employee engagement, talent retention and profitability. This is particularly important in these unusual times.


Karen Shannon

Karen Shannon

Karen Shannon, Vice President Business Consulting/CHRO for Ollis/Akers/Arney, works with world-wide clients on key business and HR strategies which have resulted in cost savings upward of $7 million.