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A reality check for corporate leaders: when managers don't respect their bosses

Marius Pretorius (Associate Professor in Strategy and Turnaround, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa, consults to corporations on strategy issues (
Ingrid le Roux (Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, consults on innovation and growth (

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 1 January 2012




The paper endeavors to determine the reasons why key managers fail to win the respect of their direct reports.


Junior and middle managers were asked to judge why managers generally fail as leaders and what they think the consequences are when there is leadership failure. They were prompted to consider their own managers first. Their responses were categorized, ranked and reported. Thereafter a framework was developed to explain the consequences to better understand the impact of leadership failure.


Managers fail at leadership as a result of poor posture, lack of “people skills”, unfocused thinking, failed communication, not giving encouragement and support, lack of expertise, lack of experience and insight as well as lack of vision and direction. The consequences influence the individual, team, organization and leadership within the organization through the feelings that they create and the subsequent actions that followers take.

Research limitations/implications

The findings indicate mainly subjective evaluations and it was not possible to distinguish between general perceptions and potential personal issues and “gripes” of the respondents.

Practical implications

Leadership failure is a fact, but to learn from it is crucial. This can be done through training but also requires that leadership should be measured to give feedback and sensitize leaders about its effects.


The reported consequences of leadership failure contain severe penalties for organizational performance if not acknowledged and addressed.



Pretorius, M. and le Roux, I. (2012), "A reality check for corporate leaders: when managers don't respect their bosses", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 40-44.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited