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5 Characteristics of Weak Leaders

5 Characteristics of Weak Leaders

Is it better to be feared or to be liked?

Many believe that a good leader knows how to answer this question, and that he/she should answer it a certain way. If somebody answers “liked,” then it must mean that person is weak and doesn’t have the ability to make difficult decisions. But if somebody answers “feared,” then it means that the person is strong and capable of making the tough decisions that come along with leadership. Right?

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Wrong. It is exactly this type of binary mindset that is weak.

Narrow-mindedness

A true leader knows that being respected is better than being feared and/or liked. If a leader fails to recognize this, then he/she suffers from narrow-mindedness and may not be leader material. This quality is one of the many characteristics of weak leaders.

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Lack of Control Over Emotions

A good example of this is the way many Americans viewed Hillary Clinton in the months leading up to the Democratic presidential primary election in 2008. During an event in New Hampshire, Clinton shed tears while discussing the upcoming election against future United States President Barack Obama. The incident was caught on camera and broadcast on several news stations, dividing the public into two groups: people who believed Mrs. Clinton’s tears were endearing and showed courage, and people who believed her tears filled her eyes with cowardice and soaked her face in vulnerability. Obama won the primary, as well as the presidential election later that year.

Now, we are not necessarily declaring Hillary Clinton a weak leader. She simply serves as an example of the way displaying one’s emotions can change the opinions of the people.

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Poor Communication

If a leader is unable to communicate his/her mission to followers, then the odds of achieving that goal are slim to none. For example, Ron Johnson became the CEO of J. C. Penney in November of 2011 and the company fired him less than two years later in April of 2013. Johnson was previously successful as the Vice President of Merchandising at Target and the Senior Vice President of Retail Operations at Apple, but his success did not continue at his new company.

Johnson’s failure at J. C. Penney can be attributed to his poor communication skills because he was unable to explain exactly what his mission was and exactly he planned on making it a reality. Since he couldn’t communicate his revolutionary strategy to employees, the employees failed to communicate this plan to customers. So Ron Johnson’s rebranding effort ended up alienating core customers because they couldn’t understand why J. C. Penney was changing everything they liked about the store. The coupons and sales soon came back, replacing Johnson’s new policy, and not long after, the company replaced Ron Johnson as well.

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Hesitation and Second-guessing

Weak leaders tend to hesitate when making decisions, and some fail to stand behind those decisions after they have already been made. A good leader keeps an open mind, considers all different points of view, and makes decisions with confidence. Hesitation and second-guessing only lead to a lack of support from followers and ultimate failure.

Not Learning from Mistakes

The reason we learn about history in school is so that we don’t repeat the mistakes from our pasts. Of course, we must know and understand how and why we made these mistakes to avoid making the same ones in the future.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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