The Crux of Poor Leadership – “The Powers to Be”

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Hands Up if you have ever heard those terms in your corporate career?

The Powers to Be.
Usually uttered by line managers when communicating anything they don’t agree with to their team. Maybe you have heard these examples.
“It’s not my decision to reduce our salary expenses, it’s the Powers to Be”
“The Powers to Be now want us to be doing this…….”
“We need to be on our best behaviour tomorrow as the Powers to Be are visiting”
The Crux of Poor Leadership
Using the “Powers to Be” analogy to describe a decision or a task is the crux of poor leadership. Many leaders use this analogy for many reasons including:
  • The leader wants to be liked
  • The leader doesn’t understand the decision
  • The leader doesn’t agree with the decision
  • The leader is not aligned to vision and strategy
  • The leader doesn’t have the skills to own the message
  • The leader is following the example of his immediate supervisor.


Using the “Powers to Be” analogy undermines the vision and the strategy and if it buys any motivation, it is temporary and fleeting in effect. Therefore strategy is affected and is executed to the minimum level expected.

One of the challenges any senior executive faces is that of driving and executing strategy. Many surveys indicate that strategy is executed to a 60% effectiveness. Some CEO’s I have spoken with are surprised it is that high, but overwhelmingly agree this is one of their greatest challenges.Strategy is executed at Front Line and Middle Management level. Where the rubber meets the road.

On average leaders receive their first leadership training and development after they have held their position for ten years. Additionally many surveys highlight the delusional aspects of many in front line and middle management positions with a higher self-rating of performance and a lower rating via other peers and supervisors.

I hope you’re starting to be clearer on the potential reasons.
When leaders use this crux of The Powers to Be it is a true indicator of poor leadership. Whether it is a inability to own the decision or strategy, a lack of awareness of how their behaviours impact others or simply playing politics or being disruptive, it is all based on leadership ability and effectiveness. And that can be fixed.

How to Resolve

The development of leaders must be the domain of senior executives and not the sole domain of the human resource function. The execution of your strategy is paramount to the the results of the company and better execution can only be done through better leadership.

All of the symptoms of the “Powers to Be” crux, can be improved by the development of leadership and the subsequent alignment to the strategy. Additionally, the message is owned with greater commitment by lower level managers and leaders and execution improves.

Everytime there is critical communication that needs to delivered to the front line team, it must be clear and the leaders delivering it must own the message and strategy.

How is that achieved? Here are just some examples.

What to fix!

  • Communication of Vision and Strategy
  • Communication with clarity and confidence
  • Training in Crucial Conversations
  • Development of influencing others
  • Building foundations of Trust and Respect into

Ask yourself these questions.

  1. To what level of execution is your strategy being implemented?
  2. How do you measure the effectiveness of your front line and middle level leaders?
  3. Do you want better performance from your leaders in your company?
  4. Do you want to lose the term “Powers to Be” from your company?

Personal Reflections
During my corporate career I had a strong leader who coached and developed us in such a way that every time we communicated to our team, we would link and align it to strategy of the business. The results the team he led achieved were the best within the company and we managed to stay ahead of the game because of this. Other times, I have seen leaders blame “the Powers to Be” for a myriad of things from performance management to customer service initiatives. If your leader doesn’t own the message, how can you expect the team they lead to?

Tony Curl is a leadership coach and business consultant. He combines international certification with his 30 years of Operational Leadership with some of Australia’s biggest retail names.He works with his clients on overcoming their pain points, gaining clarity and aligning actions to their desired goals. He trains teams to have stronger engagement and alignment with company vision.
He can be contacted by visiting his website at

Tony Curl

Tony Curl

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