Business Guides

My Firm Lacks Leadership

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

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Dear Bev,

I work for a large organization that has very poor leadership. We lack direction, communication and motivation from the very top down to the level of my manager. Some days I feel like I am wasting my time but my clients are so grateful for my help that I don’t want to consider abandoning them.

Have you ever seen anyone be able to separate themselves from the lack of leadership and focus their attention on their job? If yes, how do I do this? How do I forget about how crazy and incompetent everyone above me is and just be thankful I am able to do a meaningful job?


Dear M.S.,

Are you asking me for permission to stop caring about what goes on inside your company? Only you can give yourself that permission and it seems from your note that’s exactly what you’d like to do. So, yes, I’ve known many people who just do their job, put their all into it and successfully separate themselves from whatever craziness might rage around them. I’ve also seen people make change happen because they care a lot about their organization and they work hard to contribute to positive shifts. I’ve also seen people leave and go elsewhere to find a better fit for who they are and what they care about.

Who’s right? They all are. It’s all up to the individual and what they can handle or want to deal with in their workplace. Some people don’t want to care; others care too much. Your situation is a tough one because you can’t control the leadership. You can only watch somewhat helplessly as they make poor decisions.

Have you ever been in a leadership role within an organization? Do you know the challenges that people higher up face as they try to manage these tough situations? I ask this because sometimes things aren’t what they seem. Often they are, and you may have truly poor leaders – you would not be the only company to have these in our business! However, in many cases folks lower down the ladder don’t know all of the complexities of what the higher-ups are dealing with in making their decisions. Something that seems obvious to you may have extensions and implications you have no idea about.

It’s prudent and career-enhancing to stop focusing on how dumb these folks are and to try and find a way to offer your support to help them to succeed. Or, if you see things they simply don’t see, how can you present your ideas and options in a way that’s understandable and actionable for them? Maybe they don’t have the information you have. Maybe they are too far removed from the day-to-day to know what’s going on. You could take the perspective that it’s your job to enlighten them in an objective and non-accusatory way.

I’m not suggesting these leaders couldn’t use leadership training or that there isn’t room for vast improvement in their approach, but I believe in focusing on the obstacles we can control and influence. Unfortunately you don’t control these people. You may be able to influence them by your approach but you won’t if you are fighting the tide, or accuse them of being stupid. No one is influenced when insulted!

Most organizations don’t give leaders the skills they need once they get to leadership positions and allow people to just figure it out on their own. It rarely works but with a good team of people underneath to provide support, even the weakest leader can succeed. Try being that supportive person to help bring about better results overall.

By Beverly Flaxington, read the full article here.