Risky Behaviour in Leadership

Behavioural risks impact an organisation’s culture, growth and talent attraction. Knowing what types of behaviours leaders should consider when assessing risks can help monitor your cultural health.

Having lead and coached in quite a few organisations, and having consulted and assessed for risk, I can tell you that behavioural risk is largely overlooked. What comes with having this blind spot is an organisation that fails to understand why culture doesn’t take root, innovation is not fostered and talent is not attracted to the value proposition being espoused.

Behavioural risks are often overlooked because, at leadership level, they are infrequently demonstrated. Along the lines of the Lencioni 5 Dysfunctions of Leadership, namely using trust, using courage to introduce positive conflict, being committed to goals, being accountable, and finally being focussed to deliver on your word.

5 Behaviours that can make or break an organisation

These 5 behaviours have the intention to foster a communicative, vibrant and supportive work culture. The impact of not having leaders that are highly effective in these behaviours is an environment where people don’t feel like they can contribute, challenge known concepts or ideas, be inspiring or even inspired. The results we often see are projects that go unfinished, errors that have a high to very high consequence to the customer, high staff turnover and very low internal communications. Given the impacts of these risks, I would consider performing some risk assessment against them and utilise a tool to measure them periodically.

In any combination, being ineffectual in these traits creates an inauthentic leader that people find difficult to align with, however, the behaviour that creates the most friction or disruption inside a business, is providing trust.

Trust is a very rare commodity that cannot be bought, sold or traded and once lost is almost impossible to regain.

I have worked with people who have made it their mission to undermine people’s trust in leaders, to affect a leadership change or to accelerate their own positional change. Because trust can be so mercurial, unsettling trust is an easy accomplishment and the people that machinate in this space are to be identified early and weeded out. Again, an organisation-wide behavioural assessment linked to a risk analysis, will help make quick decisions on these liabilities.

Calling out behavioural risks in a matrix makes good sense

Isolating and assessing behavioural risk ensures it’s not overshadowed or diluted by operational risks or mitigated through management systems such as a Workplace Health & Safety Plan, and it brings the cultural heat map or health check in to light for executive or Board review. For leaders in the organisation, it considers the will of the organisation to adopt change, disruption and improvement. It may also highlight an artificial risk or place a barrier on the business and the root cause.

There are numerous articles on establishing authentic leadership and even more content on risk analysis and management, however, what I have not found much of is a marriage of the two concepts. If you have some accountability over risk in your role, take some time to research these behaviours and their measurements.