Why Bad Leaders Focus Solely on Results

Why Bad Leaders Focus Solely on Results

John Eades 18/04/2024
Why Bad Leaders Focus Solely on Results

We've all heard the saying, "The results speak for themselves," but do they?

Many managers find themselves in the unenviable position of chasing short-term results to save a month, quarter, or even a job. Days are filled with Hail Mary projects, heavy deal discounts, and team meetings that create anxiety and burnout. Eventually, the ramped-up urgency and intensity toward achieving immediate results works, or it doesn't, then the cycle starts over, or the job ends.

Every manager has encountered this situation at one point or another, where they react for outcome-centric results instead of responding thoughtfully or proactively leading.

Reacting for outcome-centric results is common. Responding thoughtfully and focusing on behavior-centric action is uncommon. Be uncommon.

Said differently, managers and executives who shift their focus from solely outcome-centric to habit and behavior-centric leadership will unlock new levels of success for themselves and their teams. Research backs this up: companies that focus on cultivating positive employee behaviors and habits see a 12% increase in productivity.

Home Runs for Character

In 2020, ESPN released the documentary, Long Gone Summer, highlighting the infamous 1998 baseball season where Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris's home run record. If you were McGwire's baseball manager in 98' and only looked at the results, you would give nothing except praise and recognition to McGwire.

We now know McGwire was using performance-enhancing drugs during the season like others were during that era. McGwire's reputation was tarnished, and he is proof that:

Rewarding people based on short-term results without looking at how the results were achieved is a recipe for long-term suffering.

When studying what the best leaders do for Building the Best, I found a formula that shows how to get consistently high results from themselves and their people. It is called, The Route to Results:


The Route to Results is simple. Leaders are responsible for setting clear standards. Those standards produce behaviors. Behaviors when practiced repeatedly, become a habit, and those habits ultimately lead to results.

Standards Provide Consistent Effort

A standard defines what good looks like. I have learned from coaching and studying leaders for the last decade that good managers define what "good looks like." But great leaders define "what great looks like." In order to get consistent winning effort and behavior daily from team members, requires defining what great looks like. It turns out most people have the wrong mindset regarding consistent effort.

Author Sahil Bloom calls this the Effort Paradox, "Effortless, elegant performances are simply the result of a large volume of effortful gritty practice. You have to put in more effort to make something appear effortless. Small things become big things, simple is not simple."

Bloom is right. If you want great results from yourself or your team, you can't focus on the outcomes; you must focus on the standards that produce behaviors like gritty practice.

Know Goodhart's Law

Most managers know the key metrics their team is measured against in their organization. So naturally, they set goals around the metric. The problem is that this is where they mess up. Charles Goodhart, a British economist in 1975, stated, "Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for controlled purposes." In 1997, Marilyn Strathern simplified Goodhart's Law to:

"When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."

Goodhart's Law is essential for managers to understand because if they want to accomplish positive results, they shouldn't focus on measuring the target. Instead, they should focus on measuring the things that produce the results, like behaviors and habits.

Managers Must Choose Leadership

Roger, a sales manager at a software company, was struggling with a lack of performance on his team. After learning about the Route to Results in an Accelerate Leadership workshop, he shifted his focus away from solely focusing on results and trying to be friends with his team. This new and consistent approach now has his team performing at levels even Roger didn't dream of.

If you need a reminder about your role as a leader, watch this short video.  

If you are in a leadership position channel your inner Roger and start choosing leadership. Set clear standards, coach the behaviors, have tough conversations about the habits, and then watch the results follow.


In the final scenes of Long Gone Summer, Mark McGwire said, "I believe I was put on this earth to hit home runs, but I also believe I was put on this earth to pass on knowledge. Not many people have been in the position to be on the top like I was, but I was also on the bottom. I don't think you can get to the top without scratching the surface of the bottom floor."

McGwire is trying to tell us that delivering results absolutely matters, especially in performance related industries.

However, let't not forget how you produce results matters and leaders play and enormous role in a team's success.

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John Eades

Leadership Expert

John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 

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