There are plenty of books and quite a few blogs that focus on good leadership. They talk about what needs to be done and when, they discuss decision making, strategy, team building and collaboration. But what about bad leadership? It seems that when it comes to bad leadership, there is very little to be found.

Dr Evil and his one million blog listHowever, over at Michael Krigsman‘s blog, Mike Kavis has a guest post on bad leaders. And while he is writing about IT project failures, there is still much for the aspiring, experienced and even bad leader to learn here (in fact, a failed project may be the single strongest learning experience of one’s career). Mike provides a ten point list of why large IT projects fail, but sums it up as follows:

This list boils down to three categories: technology, business, and people. You can probably count on one hand the number of folks that you’ve come across who excel in all three areas.

The challenge for leaders is not so much straddling these competencies — for sure, even the best leaders cannot master every leadership skill. And, anyway, there is no need — as long as our village is strong. As Mike points out, success lies in communicating vision, managing change and aligning the project (yes, it could be any project) with business outcomes. Not delivering in any one area is likely to see your overall project fail.

But if bad leadership boils down to these three elements, surely is makes it easy to be a good leader? Not so. We are measured mostly by our successes — and those successes generally take the form of projects, and projects only yield outcomes when teams work as teams. As Erika Andersen suggests, the minute that teams start to lose their focus on the problem and their role in the team, the alarm bells should start ringing. In these situations, it is the leader’s responsibility to come back to the three category areas driving the project — people, business and technology and rise to the challenge that they represent.

Nina Nets It Out: We can often learn our most valuable experiences by observing, or even living through, project failures. Understanding the role and dynamics of our teams as well as our personal skills and strengths can help ensure that our leadership contributes to a project’s success, and not its failure.