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Leadership Powerlessness

Leadership sounds wonderful.  It’s not.  Sometimes it’s downright scary.

She’s not making her numbers. More precisely, her division is significantly off our year-to-date forecast. She was strong through the first quarter, but started dipping at the beginning of the second quarter. Her third quarter is off to a very challenging start.

We had a very hard, very productive conversation about it recently. She owns the responsibility. She sees the reasons and doesn’t use them as excuses. She holds the mirror up to herself first. Unfortunately, here’s the reality of her leadership position: she can’t fix the problem. At least not on her own. She’s got a team of people underneath her who are more directly in touch with the things that will turn her division around.

She’s experiencing one of the harsh realities of leadership, and so is our company: her success, and ultimately our success, is out of her hands. She can coach, she can direct, she can encourage, she can review and retrain, she can even do write-ups and disciplinary actions. Does she have “aces in places” – i.e. does she have the right people in the right positions doing the right things? The truth of the matter is, the challenges we are experiencing right now have their roots in her hiring, training and coaching efforts in the past.

She knows some people need to be retrained. She also knows some people need to be held more accountable. She even suspects some of her team members may need to find different places to work, places where they can be more fulfilled and successful. She’s on top of it, and if anybody can turn the ship around and finish the next two quarters well, it’s her.

In the meantime, she and I both feel a little bit powerless. We’ve both delegated responsibilities that aren’t being fulfilled.

Leadership is a scary thing.