No one sets out to be a bad leader . . . and who can disagree? Yet, they do exist. So what goes wrong? And who (or what) is to blame?

By Susan Saldibar

I’ve heard this point made often in this industry. “No one sets out to be a bad leader.” And who can disagree? So what goes wrong? And who (or what) is to blame?

Steve Moran brought this up a few weeks ago when he sat down to interview Faith Ott, Founder and CEO of Sage Age Strategies, (a Senior Housing Forum partner) while in Nashville at an Abe’s Garden Board Meeting. They talked about leadership; specifically, how Faith handles a situation where a less-than-effective leader is identified, either before or during a consulting engagement.

The Cause of the Problem

First, find out who or what really is the cause of the problem.

“Our approach is to first understand the perspective each person is coming from,” says Faith. And she has done enough of these engagements to know that a “problem” with a CEO may, in fact, be more about underlying challenges that are keeping him or her from being effective.

“I’ve seen a lot of non-profit boards that have great CEOs, but they ‘don’t think they do’,” she says. Why? Basically because they want to control and run every step that CEO takes.

When the Problem Comes from the Top

But, what about when the top-level executive really is the problem?

Honesty and transparency are the keys. Along with some “tenderness”, to use Faith’s term. In other words, trying to understand the perspective of the individual in question. She then shares her thoughts with the appropriate people and in a way that is respectful.

And, she explains that it’s not just about what or who is wrong. They are coming from a “here’s what we have found, here’s what we think can be done to solve it” position. According to Faith, that makes it easier to move forward together as a team.

“It’s not about singling somebody out,” says Faith. “All in all, we see ourselves, maybe not as peacemakers, but as that connection that people can talk to, that can mediate and work through things and come up with solutions to be effective.”