It is self-evident that leaders need to be able to lead or else they fail at the primary role they hold. That said, I can’t imagine anyone in any position of leadership who has always made the right decision, so perfection is an unrealistic expectation of any leader. It’s surely rare (but possible) that there have been leaders who always made the wrong call.
We’re all human. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we screw up. That goes for leaders and followers.
When leaders mess up, what is important is how they take that knowledge, own it, and then change behavior so that it doesn’t happen again. That is the only right response to becoming aware of one’s shortcomings in leadership.
That is, unless it’s too late.
Sometimes the negative impact of leadership is so damaging that the leader becomes the story. This is almost always the critical point at which the leader must realize that he/she cannot continue to lead in that setting any longer. Indeed, in the absence of significant followers, he/she is not leading, anyway. When circumstances reach this point, the leader needs to think first of the organization and its long-term good and step out of the way so that others can lead down a fresh, new path.
Leadership is hard. Its demands are great. Its impact is far reaching. It is sometimes thankless. It is anything but easy. Still, in the case of failed leadership, the best thing to do may be to step aside and allow others to experience the excitement, newness, freshness and enthusiasm that comes from new beginnings under new leadership. That may be the most selfless act of true leadership one can offer. It may not be how we would have preferred the script to be written and acted out, but it may be the right thing to do.
Leap year lesson #295 is Leaders must know when to step aside.