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  • Writer's pictureOlivier S.E. Courtois

The 9 Most Common Dysfunctions of Today's Leaders!

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

For over 35 years, I have been led, coached, advised, evaluated, I have been a leader, coach, assessor, mentor, consultant. During this period, I have had the privilege of observing and experiencing the best, the average, and the worst of leadership, in various organizational and national cultures, on 5 different continents.


Here is a personal - non-exhaustive - summary from my personal experiences - without any scientific or academic pretensions - of what I call the 9 most common leadership dysfunctions, in no order:


1 - Lack of self-awareness: some leaders ultimately know little about their true drivers and goals; and do not fully appreciate the impact of their actions on those around them.

2 - Lack of bridge building: sometimes leaders are well connected with "thinkalikes" and "lookalikes", but their algorithms isolate them from others and lock them in their bubbles. They lack a broad and diverse perspective.

3 - Poor communication: their communication sometimes consists of long silences or produces a lot of unnecessary noise. They don't tell engaging stories or have honest and regular interactions.

4 - Lack of decisiveness and courage: they don't make the right decisions, at the right time, out of doubt or fear of being unpopular. Or they take them head down without explanation.

5 - Lack of inspiration or positive energy: some leaders energize and enthuse. Others appear as mere bean counters or process experts but lack positive energy.

6 - Lack of confidence: they fail to create a space where people feel empowered and safe to act. People are afraid to take risks or give negative feedback.

7 - Lack of understanding: overconfidence, limited curiosity or poor listening skills lead them to misjudge situations and fail to provide appropriate responses.

8 - Lack of vision: they fail to give their teams perspective and the horizon is limited to the end of the current quarter.

9 - Lack of discipline and focus: they are full of ideas and are constantly proposing new initiatives, without any sequencing or prioritization; this creates confusion and exhaustion.


Leadership is a complex and often ungrateful exercise. My purpose is not to criticize but to help us open our eyes to our conscious or unconscious practices and to readjust our approach regularly.


In a future publication, I will share a series of questions to ask ourselves to avoid or mitigate these dysfunctions or at least reduce their harmful effects.

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