5 Ways Talented Leaders Sabotage Themselves
The worst enemy to have is yourself. Others may hold you back, but who can help when you sabotage yourself?
External enemies are easy compared to the accuser within.
Talented leaders sabotage their leadership when they:
#1. Take control. Leaders are control freaks, but influence requires permission. There’s a difference between taking control and being in control. Coercion works when people don’t feel in control.
The more control you take, the less influence you enjoy.
#2. Seize power. It easy for leaders with position to make others feel powerless. Power feels exciting. That’s why you want others to feel powerful.
The seduction of seizing power at the expense of others isolates leaders and dilutes influence. The more power you seize, the more power you need to seize.
In order to give power you must release power.
#3. Compete with team members. It’s easy to win at the expense of others when you control resources and raises. Step back, if you’re the leader, and let others win. When they win, you win.
Roaring lions go further than whipped puppies.
#4. Know more. Leaders who need to know more than others lead dumb teams.
Aspire to be dumb and learn from everyone.
#5. Limit choices. When others have expertise, go with their gut. You’re a fool if you believe your way is always the best way.
Repeat after me, “I could be wrong.”
3 tips to ramp up leadership influence:
- Don’t allow your aspirational self to bully your actual self. The flaws you see in yourself limit your ability to appreciate your strengths.
- Practice improvisational leadership. The number one rule of improvisation is “go with – not against.” You might force your will on people, but you lose their hearts.
- Tell people your intentions. You have positive stories in your head. They wonder what you’re up to.
How do leaders sabotage themselves?
What behaviors enhance influence?
Another home run!
I would add higher than any of these (from my experience) that leaders should NOT refuse to admit shame and faults. Everyone feels shame, but hiding only makes it fester and force you to be driven by fear rather genuine joy (not pleasure) of self-improvement and helping others. Make it a daily exercise to admit something that you’ve been ashamed about that day or in the prior week to a coworker, family member, or friend. You can start with those you trust more and then most on to testing the waters with those that are more untested acquaintances or newer team members.
Check out Brene Brown’s qualitative research on shame resilience for more specific data on why this matters and makes us all more whole-hearted in every moment of our lives.
As an example, I talked (via video chat) with Karin Hurt for the first time and talked to her about how I felt ashamed and like an imposter as I’m getting my new venture off the ground. I had engaged her enough in other mediums such that I knew I could trust her to get why I was revealing vulnerable information. Sure enough, she commiserated with her own similar experiences as she got her own venture off the ground after leaving a ‘safe’ prior job.
Thanks James. That’s powerful. I’m delighted to learn from you today. BTW, I’m a huge fan of Brene Brown’s work.
Dan this post reminds me of my old CEO and mentor, Gene who had been in the Navy and loved military analogies. He would say that the best Generals were very Smart but also Lazy. The Smart was required to create strategy and plans. The Lazy so that they would not try to do all the implementation themselves but to use all their staff. Pick good people, set broad guidelines and goals, and then get out of their way! My old Boss Gene did just that.
Brad James http://www.bradszootales.com
Thanks Brad. Great illustration. Talented leaders are tempted to meddle.
You remind me of a Warren Buffet quote, “Hire good people and don’t tell them what to do.”
And here’s a Steve Jobs quote, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
So happy to find your site. I love this quote here “Don’t allow your aspirational self to bully your actual self. The flaws you see in yourself limit your ability to appreciate your strengths.” This is so true and something I must become more aware of – oh the inner critic. Great blog!
Thanks Madeline. Hopefully, awareness is the first step toward rising above inner demons. Cheers
Most leaders get to where they are now by being particularly good at something earlier. Letting go of that expertise is hard, and the people around you still expect you to provide that expertise. I like the description Mike Rother gives in Toyota Kata that the leader keeps everyone “in the corridor” of continuous improvement (in this case). They are always many right answers; the best ones are those we discover, not the ones that are handed to us. Remember that we always learn more when we’re wrong than when we’re right. It’s rare when we can’t accommodate a bit of exploration.
Thanks Susan. I’m glad you shared your insights. This sentence really grabbed my attention. “Remember that we always learn more when we’re wrong than when we’re right.” So important.
We sabotage ourselves when we fail to reflect on lessons learned from failure.
Great advice as usual. I remember when I first started in industry after completing my PhD, I haf a subscription to one of those free advice magazines. Each issue had advice on how to be successful. One that I remember and quote often is “Do things that make your leadership look good.” In considering your post, it very well could be that a controlling boss would make the reports NOT want to do things to make the leadership look good. In fact if controlling enough, it might not be possible to make the leadership look good…
Thanks John. Love how you came at the topic of self-sabotage. We can become so consumed with our own world that we forget that sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is make others look good. The alternative – making others look bad – is out of the question.
Fantastic! The worst enemy of all time is ourselves who defeat ourselves. Who else can influence us more than we do? None!
Thanks for sharing.
I’ve observed so many leaders fail to recognize that choosing a good competent team is a positive reflection on the leaders’ selection skills. As Alex Haley once said,(paraphrased) “If you see a turtle on top of a fence, know that he didn’t get there by himself.”