How to Break the 7 Barriers of Leadership
Leaders desire what they don’t have and reach for what they haven’t reached.
Unfulfilled passions frustrate.
Drive encounters barriers.
Barriers block the future and frustrate the present.
7 Barriers of Leadership:
- Failure to name wins. Fear prevents you from naming what you really want. But, you can’t achieve what you haven’t named.
- Unrealistic optimism. Thinking the path ahead is short, smooth, and easy.
- Deliverables over developing people. Attaining goals is the easy focus of leadership. People are messy.
- Plans without champions. Wouldn’t it be great if plans magically happened? Who owns success?
- Ignoring barriers in the false hope they will magically vanish.
- Big passion without small deliverables.
- Lack of focus.
- Acknowledge you’re stuck. Progress is a function of discontent.
- Name barriers. What’s preventing progress? Don’t assume you know.
- Connect with people who share your frustrations. Common frustrations reflect common enemies. Frustration is more powerful than contentment.
- Focus on people. The horses in the barn determine where you can go. Foolish leaders set short-term goals that teams can’t achieve.
- Embrace small, simple wins. A small win today is worth two tomorrow. A series of small wins lengthens leadership’s reach.
- Make plans by exploring the past. What repeated patterns emerge that must be leveraged or addressed? What are common points of failure or success in your past?
- Do more of what works. Breaking barriers is necessary but focus on what’s working. Or…
- Stop doing what’s working. When barriers persist, what you think is working isn’t.
- Bring the outside in. Find and integrate people who think differently.
- Identify and follow champions. Every barrier needs a champion whose working to break it. Competent champions galvanize teams that produce success.
- Forget the barrier. Choose a new path.
- Change the team. Identify the person who is the barrier and convert or remove them.
Bonus: Create enough wins that barriers become irrelevant.
What barriers do leaders encounter?
How can leaders break through barriers?
I often see and struggle with the barrier that hides most other barriers: Lack of open dissent. Most leaders have some degree of unapproachability due to multiple different factors: their position in the hierarchy, seeming too busy, insecurity, lack of self-deprecation, self-importance, etc.. Creating a culture of trust and open dissent and giving multiple avenues to provide feedback about barriers or risk has to be the first step. Otherwise you won’t even know about many of the key barriers that exist.
Thanks James. Great add!
The first thing that came to mind on this is facing dissent with optimism as an opportunity.
It’s easy to view dissent as a roadblock.
Perhaps a solution orientation helps us welcome dissent.
Sound valuable advice! Facing adversity head on and not capitulating to “save face” is a strategy I like to embrace more and more as I advance as a leaders. A powerful barrier is a deliberate culture of fear. You can develop strong leadership skills by recognizing the fear as a negative tactic against positive leadership. One must be resolute in this environment. In this environment short quick wins as a leader is critical in maintaining you leadership self-esteem.
Thanks Michael. Thought provoking comment.
I’ve been thinking a lot about cultures of fear. The larger the organization the more fear sets in. The more we have to lose. Fear is protective.
Somehow, protection has to be transformed from living in fear to leading with possibility. How can we win might help us.
Huge point about culture of fear Dan, probably is another series of posts. As an organization grows, it seems to ‘forget’ what made it successful and then, stuck leaders may grasp, literally and figuratively, tightly to those remaining grains of successful sands, which will still slip away.
Of course, there also are cases of negative, misplaced leadership that believe a negative and fear based leadership style gets results. Even after that leader moves on, there can be such a deeply rooted culture of fear (and trauma) that it takes x3-5 to manage or reduce that fear. Which goes back to your post a couple days back regarding positive feedback’s ratio to negative feedback.
Thanks Doc. You brought the idea of “leadership hangover.” Many organization live in the dark shadow of lousy leaders. It takes hard work to break negative, fearful cycles. Good call!
Well the only barrier is the only barrier, one’s thinking.
One can never overcome which is why the greatest manual for living ever penned, the AA Big Book,says we seek progress not perfection. Just my opinion of the greatest book ever penned.
In my experience and understanding I am a work in progress. I like other folks have 64 strands of DNA and only 20 turned on.
In my understanding there are 12 levels of consciousness and we are just getting into the 4th. It is cool moving I to our highest ideal is serving others. Moving past greed is pretty cool. It is evolutionary so it is happening to all of us whether we consciously get it or not.
My understanding is on the high end we are only using about 7% of our brains consciously. So 93% more to discover how to use.
All unbelievely optimistic stuff!!!
Mostly though the greatest gift we can give each other is sharing our soul with each other. Do this and everything else will fall into place.
What is this soul thingy? Well you see how truly limited I am to describe this, right? But here is a way cool acronym!!!
soul. Spirit Of Unconditional Love.
So just go share yours with as many people with as much authenticity as you can muster for 21 days and see what happens.
The Dude Abides
SP back to oxytocin generation.
Thanks Scott. If all barriers are internal – in our thinking – then the way we think about external barriers matters most.
Everything starts with what we choose to think about any subject.
Remember Napolean Hill’s classic. Think and Grow Rich
He didn’t say how and grow rich
All starts with the thoughts we choose to repeat in the mental machine.
In my experience and understanding. Does not make it true, just seems the truest to me at this point in time, subject to change if I run across something that makes more sense.
The counterpoint to #7 is #8, having the vision (internal and external) to see it is the challenge. That definition of insanity…keep on doing what you have been and expecting different results, may come into play. For leaders to have the foresight to clearly see that signpost up ahead (props to R. Serling) that shows ROI increasingly degrade and stopping what they have been doing is a hard barrier to overcome. But we still have profits coming in! That is why the retro work of #6 is so important as a key segment of an improvement process…study past failures and successes to glean where to go next.
Thanks Doc. Much appreciate how you expanded the idea of making plans by exploring the past. I’ll go this far, plans that don’t explore the past are pipe dream. The future, whether we like it or not is connected to the past. We are bound to repeat it if we don’t explore it.
Happy New Year!
My dad told me when I was a kid that I would complain about my past, hear others complain about theirs, or actually see some anchored by their past. He told me I would see a lot of “broken
fences” in my life, and they would give me either reason or excuse for pause and/or not going farther. Ultimately, he said, would be my wish and ability to SEE the flowers BEYOND the gate.
Thanks for sharing your story Rick. Our dads seem to get smarter as time goes by.
being a leader is definitely very hard, and proves to have tons of barriers. My biggest barrier is always unrealistic optimism. I always tend to think that I will always come out on top, but most times, I end up somewhere in the middle. Thanks for sharing this list,
Hi Dan and I hope you had a great Christmas! I believe one of the barriers to leadership is the myth that once a leader gets to the top of the so called ladder and begins to lead a team or organization they believe that they no longer need to grow. Some leaders get so consumed with leading the organization and fulfilling their contracted function of improving the bottom line and hitting targets that they forget that the mark of any true leader is the commitment to continual growth and learning. If they commit to grow themselves and their awareness, their people will grow and so will the bottom line. It’s such a simple equation but yet it’s the one I find that’s most missed. I’m amazed at how many leaders of organizations of all shapes and sizes who have never read a book or article about leadership. They’ve been hired purely on their track record of target hitting. This amazes me because organizations are run by people and as you said in your post. People are messy! So a commitment to grow yourself as a leader in order to be able to deal with, shape, grow, direct and lead the mess is critical. I heard something funny once where a leader said “I’d love my Job if it wasn’t for my people”. Funny, but also sad because many leaders get to that point even if they didn’t start out that way. It’s soon to happen without an investment in their own personal growth. Another barrier is vulnerability. Leadership is about coaching. But who’s coaching the coach? As leaders we have to open our lives to mentors and coaches who think bigger and better than we do. Others who have achieved way more than we have. Again it comes back to the G word, growth. This is critical so we don’t get intoxicated with our own medicine! Again love your posts. They always make me introspective and challenge me grow.
The critical barrier is thinking your job as a leader is to do whatever you can to get the work done. That always breaks down to attempting to direct and control the workforce. Whether you are a top executive or a small team leader, that choice creates most of the problems you are having and tends to demotivate and disengage your people.
However, if you view your job as helping your people become the Superstars they all want to be you will be able to achieve the 500% performance gains Stephen Covey senior said are possible. Like everything else in this universe, there is a science of people which tells us how they react to what management does and does not do. Using that science makes clear what management must do and not do, and how to do that effectively.
Best regards, Ben
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