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Executive Leader Sabotage

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Leadership commitment to excellence is foundational to improving organizational performance. An executive leader who is resistant to change, or who agrees during meetings and behaves in conflict with the organization’s new direction afterward is damaging to company culture.

An executive leader that says one thing and does another is subconsciously, or consciously, sabotaging the organization. The organization’s senior executive has a responsibility to align the leadership team, hold them accountable, and address executives who aren’t on board.

The Problem Won't Solve Itself

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “people don’t leave companies, they leave their managers.” According to James K. Harter, Ph.D., Gallup’s chief scientist for workplace management, at least 75% of the reasons for costly voluntary turnover come down to things that managers can influence. Executives who aren’t aligned to the company goals are noticed by most people in your organization, especially by those they supervise, causing low engagement and morale. The dissatisfaction is a red flag to others that the organization is dysfunctional. Teams crave alignment to the organizational direction, one executive leader who isn’t on board can spread like a disease through your organization. To prevent high performers and others from leaving the organization, it is the senior leader’s responsibility to address the executives who aren’t aligned.

What Doesn't Work?

It can be difficult to address another leader’s behavior. You’ve likely developed a relationship with this person, know and respect them well. In an attempt to avoid confrontation, senior executives may resort to the following mechanisms that may actually worsen the situation:

  1. Work-Arounds: Avoid confrontation by finding ways to work around the executive, “Who else can help me get things done?” “How can I just work around this leader?”
  2. Silence is Acceptance: When the senior leader is unwilling to address the conflict or negative behavior, it continues. The lack of confrontation is acceptance that the behavior is okay – causing a ripple of great dysfunction within the organization.
  3. Defending the Executive: There are many reasons the senior leader wants to defend the executive. Even though the senior leader knows the behavior isn’t aligned to the new direction, the person could have historical value to the organization and community. They don’t want to rock the boat. Senior leaders spend more time with their executive team, resulting in deeper relationships that create a sense of attachment and fear of hurting those they work with.

Building and sustaining a high performing organization begins with the senior leader motivating and engaging executives who are displaying negative behaviors. In a strong, yet kind, way the executive’s behavior should be addressed right away before they can successfully sabotage the team or organization.

5 Steps to Ending Executive Leader Sabotage

Align Your Team One Step at a Time

Identify one thing at a time you can do, or stop doing, to make sure your leadership team is on board and then commit to taking action. It’s the senior leader’s ultimate responsibility to align the executive leadership team.

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