7 Ways to Fail as a Leader as Demonstrated by Many Politicians

by | Mar 3, 2016 | Leadership | 1 comment

If there’s one thing that a majority of us can agree on, it’s not that one political party or another has failed us, but that too many politicians have failed to live up to their role as leaders.

It’s evident in their unwillingness to simply do their jobs by passing a budget and finding common ground with the debt ceiling.

If you want to fail as a leader, here are 6 surefire ways to do so, as demonstrated by some of our politicians.

Just Tell People What They Want to Hear

Ineffective leaders learn what others want to hear then tell them it.  Inevitably they lose credibility.  Effective leaders consider what others have to say but are crystal clear in communicating a Vision, truth and expectations.  Sometimes the truth is not easy to say and sometimes it’s even more difficult to hear.But exceptional leaders place high value on communicating clearly and truthfully.

At Service Express we’ve learned that shooting straight allows us to enlist the help of our employees when we have problems that need a solution.  Our leaders are clear when they communicate because we’ve developed tools that allow them to be including our SR5, which stands for Scorecards, ROIs and 5/15’s.


The quickest way to lose credibility is to lie.  If you want to fail as a leader, make empty promises and betray the trust that people have placed in you.

Champion Someone Else’s Values

Those who are thirsty for power often champion the values of others if it will somehow benefit them.  Often the end game is money or power that a political party, PAC or special interest group offers.

Authentic leaders have a well defined sense of right and wrong and their actions are consistent with the values that they champion.

Make Back Room Deals

One of the biggest reasons that Congress has such low approval ratings is the infamous smoke filled back room deal.  It’s the mindset that says “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”  They create rules that benefit them or their associates.  We’ve seen it in the headlines: preferred mortgages, pay offs and earmarks.  Politicians created laws that prevented insider trading then exempted themselves.  They created campaign finance laws to regulate contributions then created Super PACs to circumvent them.  They created a do-not-call-registry that levied stiff fines on anyone but themselves.

Effective leaders are transparent and they view themselves as stewards of the business and people that they’ve been entrusted with.

At Service Express, transparency is an integral part of our success.  When we make a decision, our partners and employees know why we made it because we base every decision on our Four Core Objectives.


Ineffective politicians don’t like to make decisions, they try to play both sides and they’re often caught flip-flopping on issues.

Effective leaders know what they stand for and will make the tough decisions.  They don’t stall, they move.  They try something, if it doesn’t work, then they try something else.


We see it played out in the headlines too often: a politician standing before a pool of reporters apologizing for personal or professional indiscretions.  There is no quicker way to lose trust than to cheat and it only takes one instance.

Leadership is not a title or a right, it’s earned.  Effective leaders have built trust by guarding their reputation.  They live by a higher code of conduct and they inspire others to be better.

Blame Someone Else

If you want to fail as a leader, throw someone under the bus, take responsibility for something that isn’t yours, blame someone else (like an opposing party, the rich or the poor), and above all else, don’t take responsibility for your own mistakes.

Great leaders know that accepting responsibility is critical for earning trust.  Everyone fails.  No one is perfect.  Leaders have been refined by the fire and they teach others how to avoid their mistakes.


These are 7 ways that I’ve identified to fail at leadership (no, not all politicians exhibit these characteristics, but enough have).  Have I missed one?


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About Me

I am the President & CEO of Service Express, a National Best & Brightest Company to Work For. Service Express has averaged double digit growth every year since 2001.

We attribute our success to a unique corporate culture that we call The Service Express Way. I am a member of the Young President Organization and sit on the Board of the Spectrum Health Foundation.