In the past I’ve hosted guest blogs on the site and in the spirit of providing fresh perspectives to you all, here’s something new. This blog is a combination of content from a friend (Spencer Ferarri-Wood) addressing common signs of leadership failure and my thoughts in addition to his. The hope is that this blog will hold valuable insight into what great leadership looks like for your life. For navigation purposes, the writing below in italics belongs to Spencer and the rest belongs to me.

Below are three common signs of leadership failure right from Spencer’s blog, but before we jump in, let me tell you why this blog is important for everyone – even if we don’t have the title, we are all leaders and we all influence others. Let the conversation below help you lead an inspiring life that lifts others up.


Misidentifying Your Role

Leaders frequently get to where they are because of how they performed in their previous role. But sometimes they end up reverting back to the tasks they performed in their previous role because that’s what got them promoted. Instead of coaching and guiding their direct reports, they take matters into their own hands. Good leaders, however, understand their new role and focus on the responsibilities associated with it, letting their team do the jobs they were hired to do.

I couldn’t agree more here with Spencer. One of the more recent lessons that I’ve learned is that what got you here might not get you where you want to go. In other words, as roles, so too do responsibilities. For optimal performance, we need to be able to adapt with our circumstances and sometimes that means letting go of control in certain areas and helping build other people up as we trust them with more.

Ignoring Difficult Conversations

Nobody enjoys having tough conversations. But when you’re a leader, they come with the territory. When conflict or tension arises, approach the situation swiftly by having a concise, clear, and empowering conversation. Even though it might be awkward, you’re bound to add another layer of respect by being open and honest. Ignoring difficult conversations never makes problems go away.

I’ve been realizing in my own life just how important difficult conversation are, but at the same time, how important they are. To me, this point comes down to being direct and honest with our communication to both save time and help people. Beating around the bush is one of the most counterproductive things that leaders can do and even though it’s not fun, difficult conversations are part of great leadership.

Putting the Mission First and the People Second

Good leaders understand that people come first, while poor leaders reverse the sequence and put the mission first. Declaring your company’s mission and strictly adhering to it is an important first step; no one refutes this. But instead of appreciating the mission’s impact on your direct reports—which almost always leads to better outcomes—you start to issue “because I said so” orders, which isn’t exactly inspiring.

In my most recent job (that I left), I was faced with the unfortunate truth that the business came before people and that left me feeling unappreciated and undervalued. The last thing that I felt was motivated or inspired to help build a business that took importance over people. To echoed Spencer’s sentiment, great leaders are always looking at how to build people up – empowering employees and caring about them as human beings. It might seem counterintuitive, but the leaders who put people first are the ones who achieve the greatest levels of success.


I hope that you liked this change of pace (please let me know so that I can do more down the road). If you enjoyed Spencer’s style and insight, I’d encourage you to follow along with his writing here. To wrap up this blog, let me leave you with just one more perspective on leadership from someone much more succinct than myself.

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.”

Ken Kesey

Go lead with action.

Joe Rinaldi

IG: @joearinaldi

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