Eight Reasons Leaders Lose Their Drive

I love listening to leaders. Most of them offer great insights and practical advice. Over the past year, I have been asking leaders a series of open-end questions. Though my methodology is more anecdotal than scientifically based, the responses I receive are invaluable to me as leader. I think they may be helpful to you as well.

One of the questions I asked was: "Have you ever lost your leadership drive? If so, what were the reasons for it?"

Almost all of the leaders responded affirmatively. They indeed had lost their leadership drive at some point in their lives. And the majority identified a single reason for their diminished drive, though a number identified multiple reasons.

In this article, I identify the top eight responses in order of frequency. Some of the responses may not be mutually exclusive, but I still separate them into distinct categories.

 1.The leader had no greater goal or vision than the job itself. The moment a leader is in a job for the paycheck alone, he or she has already lost the drive necessary to be a leader. Whether the fault is with the leader or the organization or both, the loss of greater vision kills leadership.

 2.The leader was not valued in the organization. One leader told me that the moment he recognized that other leaders in the organization did not value his work and area of responsibility, he began preparing an exit plan. In the meantime, he lost all of his drive for his current position.

 3.The leader was a bad fit for the position. He or she might not have the skill sets or the passion for the position. Or the leader may have been a victim of "The Peter Principle," and found himself in a position that was far over his head. You can't have drive if you don't have the ability to get your job done well.

 4.The leader was bored. Sometimes leaders get in over their heads. But other times, the job is so routine and mundane to the leader that he or she has no drive to carry it out.

 5.The leader had a work ethic problem. I was surprised at the number of leaders who admitted to me that they started coasting in their jobs. They planned long vacations more than they planned strategy. They came in later and left earlier. They spent more time surfing the Internet or playing golf than seeking to improve the organization. And most of the leaders admit it was their own fault. It began incrementally, but then became a pattern of work. Laziness is a killer of leadership drive.

 6.The leader grew weary of criticism. Many of the leaders told us they lost their drive because they were criticized repeatedly for new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. The criticism came from both within and outside of the organization.

 7.The leader had physical problems. Some leaders lose their drive if they get physically out of shape. Others told of us specific physical maladies they had that drained their energy and their motivation.

 8.The leader adopted an entitlement mentality. He or she is more focused on what is due him or her than what can be done to make a difference. The leader begins to whine and complain about the organization because of unreasonable expectations.

Of course, I heard other reasons from leaders who said that had lost their leadership drive. These eight, however, were the predominant reasons shared with me. Some of the reasons can be blamed on the organization. Others are the fault of the leader. The good news is that I heard numerous stories how leaders overcame these obstacles to regain their drive. Those will be the subject of an article one week from today.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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