I have good news for leaders. The problem is usually us, which means it can be changed. Very small leader issues lead to large gaps in performance several levels down. Any positive change a leader can make will have multiplied benefits down range.
HBR Blog, which I always keep an eye on, posted an article recently on this topic. Find it here. It is well done.
The funny pretty well known stat I laughed at is that far over 50% of men place themselves in the top 50% of athletic ability. I know I am one of them. We all tend to be blind to the truth and impact of our own behaviors.
So problem number one is we think the other guy needs to change. That is usually not true or useful. Actually, pound for pound we get more benefit from personal/leader change than foot soldier change. It is more pronounced the higher we go up.
Further, HBR notes, and I agree, that often we leaders do not know what to change. We really are blind and do not need seek specific change personally.
We desperately need to create an atmosphere where we get enough feedback on our own work. People who work for us and other stakeholders we interact with often can see issues we have and can help us find out what we need to change or work on what is within reach. We must mine for this information and seek out methods to open up this kind of useful information that we do not normally get. Alternatively, outside consultants can help us get there.
To review, far more than 50% of us are above average ability drivers which can help us know we may be the problem. Second, small changes we can make have magnified benefit downstream. Finally, what we need to change can often be gained from the people who know us well around us. We need to draw it out of them which may require some help, but is within reach and useful if we know how to take it on.