Here’s the thing: we all want to be better leaders.
But too often we focus on what to do as leaders while neglecting what not to do.
That’s where leadership derailers come in—the things that take us off track and inhibit our leadership effectiveness. If we want to be good leaders, we must be aware of our derailers and begin working on them.
“Most books about leadership tell us what a person ought to do to become effective and powerful. Few tell us what to avoid. But the latter may be even more valuable because many people on the road to success are tripped up by their mistakes and weaknesses.” –David Gergen, political commentator and senior advisor to four U.S. presidents, from his book, Eyewitness to Power
10 Common Leadership Derailers
Here are ten common derailers, based on my research and work with leaders from many different industries, sectors, countries, and stages of career development:
- Avoidance: avoiding difficult tasks, situations, or conflicts.
- Burnout: becoming run-down and feeling exhausted, often due to lack of self-care.
- Bottleneck: feeling you must make all decisions or taking on too much work yourself, causing delays.
- Delegation: not entrusting tasks to others sufficiently, leading to reduced motivation.
- Feedback: not providing feedback well or often enough, or not soliciting it enough or receiving it well.
- Insecurity: lacking confidence about leading or feeling unqualified to lead; being unassertive.
- Perfectionism: setting unrealistic expectations for yourself or others; needing things to be flawless.
- Procrastination: putting things off until later or the last minute.
- Short Game: failing to invest in the future and deciding important things without considering the long term.
- Workaholism: being addicted to work and struggling to switch it off or stop thinking about it.
While these are common derailers, there are many more. In fact, I’ve identified more than sixty derailers that inhibit leadership effectiveness.
What are your top leadership derailers? And what will you do about them?
See our new Leadership Derailers Assessment to find out—and then get to work on improving your leadership.
- What do you struggle with as a leader?
- What will you do about it, starting today?
- Who will you ask for help?
This always works best when colleagues openly discuss it together. We all have derailers. We all have work to do. So get real. And get busy with the important work of intentional leadership development. Reach out if you think I may be able to help.
Postscript: Inspirations on Leadership Derailers
- “Instead of learning from other people’s success, learn from their mistakes. Most of the people who fail share common reasons, whereas success can be attributed to various different kinds of reasons.” –Jack Ma, Chinese entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist
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Gregg Vanourek is a writer, teacher, speaker, and coach on personal and leadership development. He is co-author of three books, including LIFE Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose and passion) and Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards). Take Gregg’s Leadership Derailers Assessment or his Traps Test (Common Traps of Living), check out his Best Articles, get his newsletter, or watch his TEDx talk. If you found value in this article, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!