Do Not Overlook This Sign of Leadership Failure


“I may have to remove Walter (the western regional manager),” a CEO said to his human resources (HR) manager after his annual tour of their four regions.

“Really?” replied the HR manager.  “He’s only been there a year and his region is doing pretty well, not great but better than two others.”

“I know but after I explained the changes in our benefits plan to the employees, I did not get a single question.  At all other locations, I was bombarded with questions after my presentation.”

The CEO further explained that lack of employee response suggested that Walter might be a bully leader, and he asked the HR manager to investigate.

After spending several days in the western region, the HR manager reported that employees were indeed afraid of Walter.  Several highly productive employees had recently quit.  A few employees said that Walter, prior to the CEO’s visit, had threatened termination for anyone who made him look bad.  The culture was oppressive, harsh and stressful.

A couple of weeks later, the CEO called Walter to the office and terminated him.  Shortly afterwards, under new leadership, the western region’s performance improved markedly.

The lack of spontaneous and open questioning of leaders’ decisions by employees often indicates failed leadership.