We have all worked with a colleague who simply isn’t pulling their weight or for a manager who isn’t up to the job.

But what about the challenges and opportunities of working with a weak C-Level Executive?

By reaching the C-Level, there’s an assumption that an Executive must have achieved great success or be highly qualified as a leader. But in reality, many C-Level Executives are promoted above their capability levels – particularly when making big career leaps.

Leadership doesn’t always come naturally. It can be a lonely place and a lack of basic skills, emotional intelligence and gravitas are often brutally exposed at senior levels in an organisation.

The hard technical skills of their trade that elevated them to senior management roles often become less relevant. The further up the ladder they climb, the more an Executive becomes a generalist.

They lose touch with the disciplines, knowledge and skills that their teams have but more critically many loss touch with the need to continually develop their own inter-personal and communication skills, those that are even more critical when managing large teams in complex organisations.

Fourteen signs you have a weak Executive:

  1. They tinker

Often one of the surest signs that an Executive is struggling is their constant need to tinker and interfere with projects and delivery at the last minute. They’re often conspicuous by their absence in the planning and development stages but take to micro managing at the last minute as a way to assert their power over the process and to appear to have contributed. The result is often wasted time, energy and money but above all it sends out the signal to their team, that regardless of how qualified their people are – they will never be allowed to get something right.

  1. When the boss applauds incompetence

While celebrating success and high achievers is positive, an Exec who cannot identify the stars from the weak links in a team risks losing credibility. Likewise, most new Execs will want to gradually bring in their own people into key roles, specialists who they know and trust. But with such appointments comes danger – if they demonstrate favouritism or their appointments is a flop it reveals how out of touch the Exec is with the needs of the organization and the skills of the people they trust.

  1. Poor people skills

The more senior your role, the more important communication and emotional intelligence become. Your every word and interaction will have an impact on the performance and passion of your teams – failing to remember names, turning up late for key presentations, cold body language, a lack of empathy are just some of the hundreds of examples of poor inter-personal skills. They are inconsistent in their dealings with team members.

  1. Don’t execute on the big picture

A great Exec has the ability to look across the organization and understand how their department aligns with the mission, vision, values and most importantly P&L of the business. A weak Exec spends most of their time, working around the fringes on projects that don’t further the organisations objectives.

  1. Don’t know their stuff but talk anyway

As already mentioned – Execs are not expected to be masters of all knowledge, that’s why they have teams of high skilled direct reports. A weak Exec speaks more than they listen, thinks they have all the answers, addresses answers on behalf of their team without consulting them and rarely asks for feedback or guidance.

  1. Fail to invest

Great Execs know how to spend their budget wisely – they realize they can’t throw money at a problem, nor can they cut their way to growth. Weak Execs have a tendency to default to what they know, often committing and renaging on capital projects as the purse strings become tighter.

  1. They have misplaced expectations of their organisations dominance

All Execs are charged with flying the organizational flag, promoting the brand, product and the people – but while good Execs understand the market and opportunities for improvement and growth – weak Execs drink the ‘cool-aid’ and sell the idea that the company is a market leader. In reality, few organisations can claim to be leaders and even fewer can claim that they’re operating at maximum efficiency.

  1. They use their position to serve their own personal interests

Building a personal brand is important, and can serve a critical role for the business – but when an Exec spends more time on external engagements, than focused on their role…you know they’re only in it for themselves.

  1. They manage their people’s time poorly

Great employees give more in time, energy and passion than they are remunerated for. Great Execs realize this and optimize their teams time, while weak Execs are illusive, ambiguous and micro-manage – duplicating work, stretching resources and putting spanners in the works.

  1. The fail to communicate and go AWOL

Great leaders are primarily great communicators. An Executives time is precious but it’s remarkable just how generous great Execs are with their time and knowledge – excellent time management. If you’re struggling to get a response on email or the face-to-face the access you need, if meetings are regularly cancelled, start late or run without a set agenda then your Exec cannot manage their time, let alone their teams.

  1. Staff turnover increases

One of the most sure fire signs that an Exec is out of their depth is when good people start leaving. Of course organisations turn over staff everyday, but when the most talented individuals – particularly those who’ve been around the shortest leave, then you know that they can see a sinking ship.

  1. They allow minor obstacles to become major roadblocks

It is remarkable how in todays organisations, where Execs have P&L responsibility for tens of millions of dollars, that the smallest obstacles can be allowed to slow the whole organization. If you’re going to hire the best people, you need to make decisions quickly, approve the resources and provide the guidance necessary to let the do their jobs.

  1. They manipulate or cannot articulate the data

Every Exec reports to someone, usually the board. The clearest sign that your Exec is struggling is when they either manipulate their data to meet their objectives or when they cannot articulate that reporting at all.

  1. Inconsistency

Too often I see CEOs who are inconsistent and change their minds, which leads to confusion and mixed signals among everyone around them. Sticking to your guns and accepting the fate (even if it’s bad!) will lead to opportunities to continue learning while building trust in others.