Squandering the Lead.

Any sports fan knows the uneasy feeling when their team’s lead begins to slip away … when things start going wrong, mistakes are made, momentum is lost, and doubts about the outcome arise.

In the 2013 America’s Cup (where 9 wins determine the victor), the host American boat, Oracle Team USA rallied from an 8 to 1 deficit to amazingly win the Auld Mug, the oldest trophy in international sports. One can only imagine the enormous frustration the Emirates Team New Zealand crew and country experienced as race-after-race they failed to close it out – eventually losing it all in a crushing defeat and the most heartbreaking loss in the 162-year history of the race.

Leads can be squandered in business as well.

At work, leaders who once enjoyed a commanding lead – enthusiastic cooperation and participation in their initiatives – can eventually lose the support of their employees and falter.

Things that never before presented a problem, become a struggle to achieve. A dark reality sets in and the results reflect it. People who were reliable and engaged, disconnect and fall away. The leader’s former magic goes missing; perhaps gone forever?

Many factors can be responsible for a leader’s loss of influence, but when it builds over the years and gets to the point where they’ve lost people’s trust – they’re toast.

One cause to a leader’s demise is the slow erosion that occurs when they take people and their work for granted. Leaders who either feel too important, or get preoccupied with other matters, can put too much distance between themselves and their employees. And distancing themselves, either consciously or unconsciously is a recipe for disaster – becoming unaware and unresponsive to the needs, feelings, and everyday issues confronting their workforce.

Workers begin to wonder. And, when they wonder about their importance and value, they feel abandoned, uncared for, neglected. The response is a loss of interest and energy and a drop in performance.

These are preventable problems.

Anyone can be a short-term success. But long-term effectiveness is another matter. Leading for the long-term requires constant, on-going, regular, never-ending maintenance and renewal of the relational bonds that keep people passionate about their jobs, satisfied with the contributions they make, close to their leader, and proud of their role in the success of the organization.

You can add two important words to the end of Winston Churchill’s famous quote on persistence, “Never, never, never give up” – on people.

It just proves you’ve got to be present to win.

– Jerry Strom

Twitter: @JerryRStrom. For more information about our leadership and team development programs, please visit http://www.JerryStrom.com . Join the mailing list to receive new articles as they are published. This article is based on research conducted for the *‘The Relationships Report: The Linkage between Leadership and Relationships,’ by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Find ‘How Leaders Build Relationships at Work’ at http://www.jerrystrom.com/research/js_relationships.html short insights on Twitter at #RelationshipsRPT

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