The Effect Of Personality & Responsibility On Leadership Derailment Essay

The Effect of Personality and Responsibility on Leadership Derailment.

National Open University September, 2018


To run an organization successfully, it is required to make sure that everyone is on board. The industry runs with collaboration of its various units and Collaboration requires Cooperation. These parameters can be made to work properly with the help of psychological alignments. Thus, binding the managerial skills with the psychological implementations helps to know the several reasons of success and failures in an organization.

Leadership is and has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. A definition more inclusive of followers comes from Alan Keith of Genentech who said “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.

Leadership is equally responsible for all the success and failures a company is facing. With changing arena of technology and specifications we need equally competent enough leaders. The twenty plus years old methods and point of views of hiring may not be leading to a failure but are responsible enough for ‘No Big Success’. The leadership needs to understand its own bright and gray areas so that it can lead to a better growth, talent acquisition and placing a set of qualities in a person in the right place. The cost of bad management should not be paid by the complete association.

Kramer (2008, p. 26) reviewed the leadership literature, commented that it is “a strange mixture of alchemy, romantic idealism, and reason,” and concluded that the lack of consistent, actionable findings prompts some business people “to wash their hands of the whole subject, talent shortage or no talent shortage.” The derailed management not only causes big visible impacts but also something which has the hidden frequency of disengaged employees or improper handling of intellectual capacities under a headship. Specifically, “A Leader optimizes upside opportunity or minimizes downside risk.”

The root of this derailment can be seen in the one clear distinction that: Leadership may involve power by position, but Leadership should involve power by influence. Mistakes committed by poor leaders are of five types, as given by Courtis (1986) in his book Managed by Mistake; they are as below:i. Error of omission (Failure to act or communicate)ii. Error of commission (doing things you ought not to have done)iii. Qualitative errors (doing the right thing inadequately or by the wrong method)iv. Error of timing (doing the right thing too early or too late)v. Credibility errors (doing the right thing, at the right time, but in such a way as to irritate everyone or discredit the action)Major problems for poor leadership management and poor decision making are mostly caused out of failure to act effectively or communicate. Leaders who tend to learn from their mistakes can focus on self-improvement that in turn can win trust of the employees and thus can prevent themselves from leadership derailment.

External factors as well as internal factors affect leadership qualities, such as family, social groups, expectations, goals, desires, basic needs, emotions, feelings, self-esteem, need to be liked by others all these factors contribute to effective leadership.With the increase in the power in the hands of a leader, it turns more probable that a certain time the decision taken may be well calculated by considering all the positive and negative aspects or it may also be the case that the decisions are taken in an impulsive way. Such probable scenarios of decision making depends on the type of personality a person rule. Rather than just the external factors of position and power, it is also the matter of consideration that whether the given person has the capability to lead in a given situation. Handling a given task in an exceptional way is one of the qualities that are expected but it more or less includes if the person can handle diversified tasks in an equally good way.

The derailment is caused by placing a good person in a wrong role. Once such an issue happens, it sources some of the basic problems. The Lack of teamwork and collaboration is the nonexistence of team orientation happening because the team is driven by personal ambitions and has no place for team success and not cultivating network.

The equal contribution sis done by Insufficient training/development. It is the failure to unleash talent and the lack of commitment to learn. There is no formal training process done to aware the employees and that is basically caused because of dearth of effort from top management. Responsibility and opportunity go hand in hand. The value of both is turned to null because of the undesirable aspect of ego, arrogance or the micro-management done by the leaders. They prominently Fail to recognize and reward team for success. There prime focus revolves around themselves and their positive reports which should give good impact to the higher hierarchy as compared to their subordinates or underlying team which had been working with all the efforts. It also gets noticed by unclear vision and non-strategic decisions.

Every prospect demonstrates the Lack of leadership qualities. It is the Failure to lead from the front, boost people and the team to develop within, inspire the team in challenging crisis and engage them into positive workflow. It shows their least interest towards the dedication for employees. The resistance towards change in accepting new ideas for overall growth and development is also equally responsible for derailment. The authority which does not welcomes the new ideas and suggestions from the employees tends to fail more often. Flexibility opens the doors towards betterment and improvement.

Inability to change

Lack of innovative thinking; failure to adapt; lack of flexibility. Poor leadership selection just on the basis of number of years a person stays in an organization is one of the poorest criteria for the workforce to get into action. Lack of trust. Lack of trust, integrity, loyalty; betraying trust. The Emotional intelligence and the self-awareness are the prominent ways which helps in the various situations requiring empathy and sympathy for the employees when needed. It brings a sense of collaboration and dedication to work more effectively. But the absence of the same causes people to be more rigid and non-cooperative towards their leader and work indirectly. Inability to deliver results because of because of improper prioritization, time management, accountability also captures one of the major attributes of the failed or an unsuitable leader.

The various studies are the testimony to such scenarios where this lack of good leader is often miscalculated with improper team a person leads, rather than an improper leader. The personality traits of a leader and the mood or behavior person rules in various situations is the major factor which results into the way a group collectively behaves.In today’s team-based structures having leaders with the right mix of these personality characteristics is critical and can even be lifesaving. For example, a study performed by Foushee, Chidester, Helmreich (1991), found that flight crews’ performance was directly related to the captain’s personality (as cited in Hogan, 1994).

Crews, who had a captain that was emotionally stable, agreeable and confident, were better able to stand up to stress and pressure and made less errors. However, crews who had captains who were hostile or passive aggressive made greater errors and performed poorly. As per the Association of Business Psychology, when the leaders go up the ladder by just capitalizing on their key strengths, when confronted widely by circumstances are unable to deliver because the work may require a broad range of capabilities that a person, who tends to be leader may not possess. The extreme behavior pattern that a person generally may have is being bold, clever, assertive, introvert, extrovert, excitable, cautious, reserved, imaginative, dutiful, diligent etc. But the combinations of the same with different potions of different personality factor may cause problems. The Bold leader may always take a stand for you, but a bold as well clever leader may bring toxic behavior into the employee causing discomfort and no satisfaction in the job. Such toxic components should be analyzed well before a person is chosen to take up any big responsibility.

While good leaders may have a balance of qualities and helps and motivates the team in all sorts of situations, invariable of what qualities the team may possess. But an incapable leader will always blame the team for lack of creativity, science, tradition, commerce and affiliation. The discriminatory leader with no confidence and still authoritative in nature is irritable, incompetent. Beneath the tough and arrogant veneer of a toxic boss is an ill-tempered child who is mortified of change. They are highly inflexible, and take changes very hard. The toxic boss is likely to be the most vehement opponent of any changes in the organization. The good leaders have the following qualities in them of being Fair with no favouritism, evaluations (appraisals& reviews).

The Knowledge – Of job, smart, on policy & procedure with full honesty towards decision making, consistency is also a must. The trend of Communication – Open, Effective, Know When to Speak, Good Interpersonal Skills, common sense and Integrity also enhances productivity in the team.Respect and Approachability – Treats officers (teams/ people) with, earns it themselves reflects all the qualities a leader and the team owned possess.

Review of the Literature

Leadership is the formulation of a vision, developing a climate of trust within the organization, and empowering others. –Lohmann (1992)Leadership derailment is a concept that has been given different connotations in the literature. A representative view from the scanty literature shows that scholars tended to apply different nomenclatures to describe the phenomenon of leadership derailment or leaders who fail.

Furnham (2010a) aptly notes that the work on leaders who fail is marked by different terms and he presents a checklist of ten words scholars used in this area:

  1. Aberrant (leader) – abnormality, atypicality and deviance.
  2. Anti-social (leaders) – psychopath, immoral, delinquent.
  3. Dark side (Traid) (leaders) – evil, dismal and menacing.
  4. Derailed (leaders) – thrown off course.
  5. Despotic (leaders) – autocratic.
  6. Destructive (leaders) – ruining, spoiling. International Journal of Business and Management Vol. 8, No. 16; 2013 80
  7. Incompetent (leaders) – inadequate, ineffective, unqualified.
  8. Malignant (leaders) – doing harm, spreading malevolence.
  9. Toxic (leaders) – poisonous.
  10. Tyrannical (leaders) – arbitrariness, oppressive, unjust.
  • Furnham (2010a) roughly categorized these terms into three classes of leaders:

    1. Bad leaders (dark side, despotic, destructive, malignant, toxic and [destructive] which implies the behavior is evil, amoral, unjust.
    2. Sad leaders (incompetent) which implies that these leaders simply do not have the skills or abilities for the job.
    3. Mad leaders (aberrant, anti-social, derailed) which implies that the leaders are mentally unstable or psychologically maladjusted.

    Einarsen, Aasland and Sogstad (2007) identify with the concept of destructive leadership which they defined as “The systematic and repeated behaviour by a leader, supervisor or manager that violates the legitimate interest of the organization, by undermining and/or sabotaging the organization’s goals, tasks, resources and effectiveness, and/or the motivation, well-being or job satisfaction of subordinates” (p. 208).

    This definition highlights ongoing leader’s behaviour as major influence over outcomes for both the organization and followers. On his part, Slattery (2009) considers the ‘dark side of leadership’ which he defines as “an ongoing pattern of behavior exhibited by a leader that results in overall negative organizational outcomes based on the interactions between the leader, follower and the environment” (p. 4). The author sees the organizational goals, morale and follower satisfaction as being thwarted by the leader’s misuse of power and his self-interest.

    Einarsen et al (2007) propose a conceptual model of destructive leadership behaviour. This is congruent with their definition in that it encapsulates the two dimensions identified in the definition, that is, destructive behaviour directed towards employees and destructive behaviour directed towards the organisation. Gabriel (2004) suggests that dividing leaders into good and bad “is naïve” (p143) because effective leaders can suddenly fail and mediocre leaders can suddenly shine. He says that the factors that account for the difference between success and failure are innumerable and not all of them can be anticipated.

    Kets de Vries (2006) says that positive leader behaviours such as assertiveness, confidence and creativity are underpinned by a moderate measure of self-esteem whereas at the other end of the spectrum dysfunctional leadership behaviour, manifest in self-centeredness, grandiosity, lack of empathy, and exploitation, can have devastating consequences.

    More recently, Kellerman (2004) and Lipman-Blumen (2005) focus on the effect of destructive leadership on the organisation when they talk about corruption. For example, Kellerman (2004) makes the point that leaders can put their self-interest before the interest of the organisation and become involved in “corruption, lying, cheating and stealing”, and Lipman-Blumen (2005) includes the word ‘corruption’ when describing ‘toxic leaders’ as those “who act without integrity by dissembling and engaging in various other dishonourable behaviours” (p18), such as, hypocrisy, sabotage, and manipulation as well as assorted, unethical, illegal and criminal acts, in her list of behaviour that depicts a destructive leader.

    Wicker (1996) describes toxic leaders as “maladjusted, malcontent, malevolent and even sometimes malicious, succeed in tearing others down and glory in fighting and controlling rather than uplifting followers”. She says they create a tense working environment so much so that communication is stifled.

    Need of the Study

    Effective leaders need to develop their understanding of themselves, so they can know how to use their gifts, how to compensate for their limitation and how to develop new skills or improve weaknesses (Hollenbeck and McCall, 2003). The moving away from this approach is the track toward derailment.(PDF) Leadership derailment: Does self-leadership matters?. Available from:

    Leadership derailment can be often applied to individual leaders who had been expected to move into higher-level positions but who are unexpectedly knocked off track. An individual who has consistently been perceived to be a high performer can derail if they are unable to adapt their skills and behaviors to meet the changing demands of the role or the organization maybe with changing time due to racial, gender or any other way of creating a biased environment. These situations occur because of an incapable person holds a particular high position in a hierarchy.

    This improper positioning is because of a A Faulty Promotion Process leads to an Inflated Sense of Self and corrupts Power. Also, Leadership Training Is Failing because of Toxic Workplaces and that has Ruined Lives. A 2016 Gallup poll found that only 18% of managers demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others – meaning a shocking 82% of managers aren’t very good at leading people. Gallup estimated that this lack of leadership capability costs U.S. corporations up to $550 billion annually.

    According to a recent report by Deloitte, organizations around the globe invest approximately $46 billion annually on leadership development programs. A study by the Corporate Leadership Council supports Kellerman’s assertion, finding that the billions upon billions of dollars spent on leadership training has improved productivity by only 2%.In a 2016 McKinsey & Company study of more than 52,000 managers and employees, leaders rated themselves as better and more engaging than their employees did. This included 86% of leaders who believed they model the improvements they want employees to make, while another 77% of leaders believed they “inspire action.”Compare these self-perceptions to the previously cited Gallup poll which showed that 82% of managers and executives are seen as lacking in leadership skills by their employees. Termed “self-enhancement bias,” these numbers show that a surprising number of leaders suffer from inflated views of their abilities.


    Leadership derailment does not typically occur due to a lack of skills or the absence of a particular set of behaviors. It basically gets accumulated due to similar demonstrations around. Thus, understanding this current problem in the industry we get around the following objectives which will be worked upon during the entire study:

    1. To understand and find out what personality traits affect leadership in a negative way leading to stagnant growth.
    2. To explore how expectations, and work environment causes failure in effective leadership.
    3. To explore how constant pressure to achieve desired goals affect leadership and how leaders cope up with it.
    4. To develop the strategies to manage the risks of leadership failure in an organization.

    Research Methodology:

    a) Problem Statement: – Derailment “occurs when a manager who was expected to go higher in the organization and who was judged to have the ability to do so is forced, demoted or plateaued below expected levels of achievement” (Lombardo and McCauley cited in Gentry et al., 2009).Leadership derailment can be especially costly to an organization in terms of both financial and people costs. When a leader derails, the organization bears the expense of the lost developmental investment in that leader, as well as the costs associated with the individual failing in a position. These costs are coupled with the implications on employee engagement and motivation. Derailment can be emotionally devastating to the individual and have a long lasting impact on the individual’s team and colleagues.Derailment is a significant problem in organizations because it threatens organizations’ success, reputation and profitability. Derailment is related with negative personal characteristics (Williams et al., 2013). Williams et al. (2013) rightly points out that if the leaders do not reach their goals, they are fired or feel themselves unsuccessful in their career, and at that point derailment can occur.

    Objectives: – To understand and find out what personality traits affect leadership negatively.This can be done by exploring that how expectations, and work environment causes failure in effective leadership. It also involves the walk around of how constant pressure to achieve desired goals and time lined targets affect leadership and how leaders cope up with it. The concern built on derailment which should be taken into consideration is development of the strategies to manage the risks of leadership failure in an organization.

    Hypothesis :-Ho =H1 =d) Sampling:-This complete work shall be conducted on 200 people approximately. The various components of the Research are: – Target Population: – The researcher shall divide the complete suite of work into three different group representing three different types of people on work. The prime set will be a group of leaders who are leading or heading a particular team. They shall be filling a self assessment set of inventory. This shall be compared and contrasted by the second set of people who shall be the people under the team of the same leader. They shall be filling the inventory for their respective leader. The parameters shall be judged from their perspective for the qualities and shortcomings currently a leader governs. This way it shall cross verify and interrogate the results of the self assessment filled by both the samples. Leadership is never restricted to the specific team a person leads; it goes across the complete organization.


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