The Psychology Of Leadership: 5 Legendary Communication Fails In Business


This is part two of our Psychology of Leadership series. To read part one, click here.

Communication lies at the heart of any effective business strategy, for the simple reason that it’s the only way your team will know what they’re doing.

With effective communication every member of a business pulls in the same direction, making the likelihood of success ever greater.

But seeing a few examples of bad leadership could help you avoid some fatal pitfalls – with that in mind here are five communication fails that damaged the reputations of powerful businesses and institutions.

Communication is key - Nokia 3310

KFC and the coupon controversy

As we saw from the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey is a woman with an almost presidential air when it comes to her engagement with the public.

But her popularity proved to be too powerful for KFC in 2009 – after her website offered free coupons for a new product from the chicken brand, they failed to properly estimate how many customers would want to try out their latest finger lickin’ good flavour.

Thousands of disgruntled customers were turned away from the chain without chicken, and KFC had to reimburse them with vouchers promising them the product at a later date.

The lesson: Harnessing the power of a popular figure is great but, if you can’t anticipate the response to your promotion, your new marketing strategy will fall at the first hurdle.

Nokia and the technology non-starter

Nokia were the reigning champions of the mobile phone world for more than a decade. Their 3310 model was the icon of the first wave of commercially successful phones, so much so that it’s still being sold as a “dumb phone” today.

But the company began to lose its competitive edge when smartphones gained traction in the market. While the company allegedly had many great ideas for smartphones at the time, leaders spent more time discussing marketing strategies instead of delivering a finished product.

The lesson: find the balance between your marketing strategy and product delivery, especially if you’re in the fast moving tech industry.

How David Moyes lost the dressing room

Football can be a fickle thing. One season you’re riding high as a manager and the next you’re the pariah of every terrace in the UK.

It was a fate that former Manchester United manager David Moyes will be more than familiar with. After a successful time managing Everton, Alex Ferguson saw David Moyes as a natural fit for the Red Devils.

But a series of blunders in the transfer market kicked Moyes’s season off to a bad start, and rumours that he had “lost the dressing room” were draining morale from players and fans alike.

After 10 months Moyes was sacked from his position, thanks in part to his dithering approach to management.

The lesson: surety in your management style is vital for success.

Indiana University’s grammatical slip-up

Honouring your late alumnus at a university should be a simple matter – but it caused a major headache for Indiana University in 2014.

To pay tribute to late alumnus Ernie Pyle, the Pulitzer Prize-winning World War II reporter, the university erected a statue of him.

But somewhere communication failed and he was referred to as a “corespondent” instead of a “correspondent” – turning him from a reporter to someone facing a lawsuit, all with one simple spelling error!

The lesson: If you don’t prepare and communicate ideas thoroughly, easy-to-avoid mistakes will slip through the net.

If you want to know more about the path to effective leadership, look at these related articles:

For more information on distance learning, explore the rest of our site.

Leave a Reply