Confused Leaders Create Confused Followers

There are many warning signs of bad leadership and management, one of them is when followers are confused. Last week I witnessed a meeting between a manager and his immediate reports. The manager called an impromptu meeting to let them know that he felt that no one was obeying him, that they were slacking off and that he would change them with new people if things didn’t change.

And in order for all of this to happen, he was going to start being hard on them. I later learned that days before there had been a meeting, on some of the things he said but no one really bought in. From where I was sitting, his reports had a question mark in their face, like “what’s going on?”.

When the meeting was over, every single one of them was more confused than clear on what their manager wanted. I thought to myself, why is this person in a management position?

You can’t expect progress when people don’t know what’s expected of them.

Confusion in the ranks means there’s confusion at the top

As a leader, one thing I dislike is disorganization. If I’m confused and disorganized, then everyone else will be too. It’s no secret at all, and research backs it up that clear, concise and consistent communication is a key skill every leader should have; according to Harvard, clearly communicating expectations is one of the top 10 (#3) leadership competencies.

When people are confused and disorganized, they’re “chicken without heads” where people simply do things without knowing exactly what’s expected of them. To put it bluntly: As a leader, you look like a disorganized fool when you leave people confused.

Communication isn’t easy. But as a leader you have to be aware of your weaknesses, and work on turning them into strengths. Put yourself in other people’s shoes, would you like to feel confused when you interact with yourself?

Bottom line: Confused leaders create confused followers. Confusion in the ranks means there’s confusion at the top.