6 Signs You’re Not Qualified to Lead


You are not qualified to leadIt boggles the mind that current co-CEOs (James Gooch & Felicia Thornton) of Market Basket blame employees for the company’s problems. That’s a classic example of leaders who are no longer qualified to lead at the organization. Which got me thinking, when should any leader know it is time to step down? What are the signs you are no longer qualified to lead? Here’s my list:

1. You publicly blame your stakeholders for… anything

Accountability is good. However, all great leaders know you praise in public, criticize in private. If you point a finger of blame, you’re not leading. Leaders take accountability for their entire organization in public. They hold individuals within the company accountable in private. Great leaders distribute the praise but always pull in the blame.

2. You lack a passion for the mission

If you’re not passionate about that which you lead then you’re not going to give it your whole being. Passion does not require any outward behavior. Passion does require both the head and the heart of the leader. If you don’t feel both your head and your heart engaged in the mission, it’s time to turn over the reigns to someone who does.

3. You are dependent upon the income

This one’s often overlooked. However, if you are dependent upon the organization you serve for the financial well-being of your family, there is a problem. In short, you won’t be confident enough to make decisions that could negatively impact your career but are best for the organization and it’s stakeholders.

4. You are unwilling to listen

If you find yourself refusing to listen to others, either because you’re too busy or overconfident, then you are headed for failure. Many leaders have to do a lot of talking. But for all the talking one must do, you must do even more listening to maintain an empathy for those you serve.

5. You lack empathy for your stakeholders

Speaking of empathy… if you don’t care about those you serve then you cannot lead them. Give it up and find someone who does care.

6. You are willing to compromise your personal values

Call it ethics, morals or values – they must be firmly planted and unwavering. The moment you find yourself justifying a decision that does not feel right, it’s time to re-evaluate. This is how many of the biggest cultural failures begin: with a leader who compromised their values. Once the leader compromises their own values, the rest of the organization follows.

Those are all signs you are not qualified to lead at the organization. What signs would you add?


Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

3 thoughts on “6 Signs You’re Not Qualified to Lead”

  1. Unfortunately, I’m not sure where you did your research on the Co-CEO’s of Market Basket ‘both blaming” employees for the company’s woes. There was one CEO prior to the time Arthur S. Demoulas fired his cousin Arthur T. Demoulas. When Arthur T. was fired, his employees went on strike in support of him. This in turn led to the customers going on strike in support of the great work the employees had achieved. Arthur T. got it right with the employees at Market Basket, his cousin, Arthur S. did not. http://www.ceo.com/leadership_and_management/serving-up-meaningful-leadership-at-market-basket/

    I certainly agree with the premise behind your article, I just believe we need to correctly give attribution to CEO’s who do the right things right, and not the wrong things right. Best regards, Colin D. Baird contributing writer CEO.com

    1. Thank you for your insights, Colin. I also enjoyed your piece on CEO.com and recommend it to others. In fact, I’m confused as to why you question my research as our views seem aligned.

      My research refers to the current co-CEOs who replaced Arthur T. These individuals are Felicia Thornton (most recently from Nordstrom & Knowledge Universe) and James Gooch (formerly of Radio Shack). To the best of my knowledge there have been no other 2 “Co-CEOs” in the history of Market Basket, save perhaps the two brothers, Mike & George who ran the company from 1954 until George DeMoulas died in 1971. What other co-CEOs did you think this referred to? As for the blaming of employees, that referred to the statement released by Market Basket’s current (Co-CEO led) executive team on Monday, August 18th, 2014. That statement reads, in part, “When a distribution network set up over decades is shut down in one day it is naive to assume any company would not suffer. The longtime employees that ran Market Basket’s buying and distribution system walked out on their jobs, their customers and their vendors on July 18. That is precisely the reason Market Basket’s stores have had only limited perishable items in stock since.” This clearly places the blame for vendor payment issues at the employees who support Arthur T. and is the inspiration behind this post.

      So, in summary, I am suggesting the current co-CEOs (James Gooch & Felicia Thornton), put in place by the Arthur S. side of the family are not qualified to lead at Market Basket. Can help me understand where you disagree or where you feel my research is faulty?

      1. Hi Ben,

        I’m sorry I didn’t see your response until this evening (Nov 5ht, 2014). I re-read your article in the context you described. I believe our thinking is aligned. I’m not sure why I made the comments I did regarding your article. It may be this story got me so fired up that I just flat out misread your article in it’s entirety. Your article is well thought out, and addresses many of the issues I believe are impacting American leadership today.

        My email is cbairdthewriter@gmail.com. Let’s catch up sometime and chat.

        Be well,


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