05/28/2013 11:54 am ET Updated Jul 28, 2013

5 Leadership Failure Awards for 2013


From Lance Armstrong to the IRS, 2013 is already so rich with lessons to be learned from leadership failures, we decided to put together a few mid-year awards. We get at least as many helpful ideas about good leadership from failures as we do from successes, so these five should be particularly instructive:

1. Innovate First for a Greater Good

The winner is: Pfizer, for devoting billions of dollars to develop "Lybrido," a potential pill to make women hornier. Question (just asking): might not that money be better spent to lessen disease and suffering? The reminder: leadership for profit AND greater good is usually more powerful than for one aim or the other.

2. Collaborate, Cooperate, Negotiate, be Decisive and Empathetic

The winner is: Congress and the Obama administration for the no-win, lose/lose, no-solution budget "sequester" -- such a massive failures on budget implementation that they are evicting low income Americans from their homes. The lesson: repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, and thus a great reminder of the need for leadership change.

3. Integrity / Authenticity

The winner is: Lance Armstrong. I know, so four months ago, but even so, it's still a great 2013 example. Lesson: lies are the blowflies that eventually recycle rotten leadership.

4. Accountability

The winner is: IRS. Saying last week she hadn't broken any laws but then refusing to answer any questions, the top IRS official involved in evaluating tax exempt organizations dissed an entire congressional committee, and taxpayers everywhere. Lesson: name it and claim it -- that's leadership.

5. Wise Stewardship of Resources

The winner is: Once again, Congress. This time, for its failure to authorize funds and resources to maintain bridges and other national infrastructure, leading to last week's Interstate Highway 5 bridge collapse. The reminder: leadership means sustaining the structures and resources that enable a shared, safe way of life.

Ready, set, learn.