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Until recently the "magic" ingredients that separate winners from losers when it comes to leadership have been hard to nail down. Fads and personal preferences have dominated the thinking of most experts who have written on the subject.

Some opt for a human relations and team approach focused on socio aspects of the organization; some for a rational and mechanistic approach focusing on strategies, plans and direction. Others focus on expertise, whether product or professional; and still others choose an entrepreneurial, freewheeling and high performance approach.Managers have been buffeted with programmatic ideas from goal setting to total quality, from re-engineering to teams and a host of other "methods"-based approaches.

There are more fundamental factors that will ultimately determine the success or failure of the leaders in your organization. After 30 years of assessing and evaluating leaders and potential leaders, our findings related to the specific characteristics that lead to leader failures, demotions or terminations, have become ever more clear.

When it comes to true, lasting and valued leadership, the rules, though not new, are more fundamental and less faddish then ever.

After a few months of intense team building while trying to rebuild a very sick organization, I am again reminded of the importance of selecting the right people for leadership positions, and of the need for intense coaching during a manager's developmental years, the years before the trappings of position and authority make change too difficult and too painful.

I have met with more true management jerks in my career than one man should ever face. Perhaps that comes with the territory and my chosen career - invested in fixing sick organizations.

I have listened to thousands of employees and supervisors in various settings tell me about how impossible it is to work with various bosses.

Most managers do not realize the impact they are having on others. They easily describe themselves as hard-working, de-pend-able, ambitious and concerned. They are easily irritated, but they justify their behavior because their anger comes from what they believe are perfectly justifiable reasons.

They say, "My subordinates don't work hard, they are lazy, they make careless mistakes, they won't meet my standards."

These managers often seek dependent subordinates, ask them to take responsibility or to make decisions, and then second-guess them. They are usually gregarious, socially skilled and able to present a positive and optimistic face to their own boss, and are then obnoxious in the face of their own teams.

They read (or at least they display) books like "Zapp" and "The Lightening of Empowerment." They quote it because they believe in the ideas contained therein, and yet they get perfect negative scores on tests like the one that follows. Evaluate yourself or evaluate others, remembering that nothing so determines the future of your organization as does the quality of your leadership.

The Fatal Flaws Quiz

You might take this brief Fatal Flaws quiz. Answer the questions on a 1-5 scale - "1" being strongly disagree and "5" being strongly agree. If you dare, give it to others and ask them to rate you as well, or you might rate the "reigning" supervisor in your office to help you better understand why you are so frustrated.

1. Does not follow up on promises or commitments. Keeps people dangling.

2. Thinks more about his or her own career or promotion or political advantage than about the job he or she should be doing now.

3. Does not select or train staff wisely.

4. Cannot handle conflict with a bad boss or with one she or he disagrees with. Just passes on the frustration.

5. Does not build or work with the team.

6. Has an insensitive, abrasive and critical style.

7. Sees and criticizes every little problem but seldom sees the good.

8. Cannot handle complicated strategies or projects.

9. Chooses associates from narrow group of like-minded subordinates or associates. Protects the "good ol' boy" network.

10. Makes a splash - lots of words and then moves on without completing the job.

11. Is arrogant (devalues or discounts the contributions of others - he or she must always be right).

12. Does not resolve conflict among subordinates or does not step up to deal with non-performers.

13. Adopts a bullying style when under stress or when frustrated.

14. Does not pay attention to details or facts.

15. Can't make the transition from expert or technician to manager. Meddles in the job, affairs and the responsibilities of others, even when those responsibilities have been delegated.

16. Isolates himself or herself from others.

17. Relies too much on technical or personal talents. Can't let go long enough to build an organization.

18. Is emotionally volatile and unpredictable.

19. Is dishonest - says different things to different people to gain personal advantage or to cover problems. Often is agreeable, but people find out later that that did not mean he or she agreed.

20. Makes subordinates or peers feel stupid or insignificant. Robs others of their self-confidence and motivation.

21. Has left a trail of bruised people.

22. Sets people up and then tries to catch them doing something he or she does not like.

If any of these descriptions are familiar to you (and you ought to ask others), do something about changing before it is too late.

These questions are drawn from our own research and are also included in a training and feedback survey we have developed called The Master Leader Some are also related to research from the Center of Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C.