Succeeding with Three Challenges that Derail Leaders
Three Challenges that Derail Leaders:
Challenge #1: Self-development during seasons of success.
Talent’s halo makes you over-estimate your abilities and under-estimate your need for growth.
I often ask audiences to raise their hands if they’re smarter than the person sitting beside them. We all laugh, but there’s a hint of truth behind the smiles.
Leaders who do everything well are confused.
Challenge #2: Living by priorities rather than urgencies.
Urgencies make you feel important, but sticking to priorities makes you a leader.
Three things that obscure priorities:
The most dangerous urgency is opportunity. Priorities enable “no.”
Challenge #3: Pouring into yourself as you pour out for others.
You ran out of steam because you poured out but didn’t pour in.
Warning phrases include:
- “I’ll take time off after…”
- “Just this time.”
- “I just need to finish this, before…”
Don’t justify poor decisions by suggesting you’ll do it right next time.
An excuse is permission for failure to continue.
Succeeding with the three challenges:
Jim Parker, retired CEO of Southwest Airlines, gave me a surprising answer to winning at leadership’s challenges. He was CEO during 9/11.
It’s been five years since we talked, but I still remember him saying, “Be yourself.” I keep relearning the wisdom behind those underwhelming words.
- Frequently reflect on yourself and your journey.
- Define your values.
- Connect with mentors and coaches who help you find and express your best self. Avoid mentors who pressure you to be like them.
- Define yourself by who you are, not who others expect you to be. This is the leaders journey.
Being yourself is never an excuse for laziness, indulgence, or flaunting weaknesses.
Be yourself or someone else will define you.
What derailing challenges might you add to my list of three?
How might leaders succeed with derailing challenges?
Great post. I would add “Pay attention to your health and well-being.” That’s an important part of filling your own well. It’s much harder to develop yourself as a good leader if you are regularly overtired, stressed out, and in poor physical condition.
Thanks Mim. Great add. We cut our influence short when we neglect our health. Thanks for jumping in.
#2 resonated for me the most. We always think of leaders as people who are open and responsive to opportunities. But I agree that opportunities can be distracting, a symptom of FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s important to keep your eye on the target: your priorities!
Thanks Dave. This is the first time I’ve seen the acronym FOMO… love it. It takes more discipline to say no than yes! Best for the journey
Great stuff here. Priorities over opportunities. Leaders must remember that what say no is guarding what we have said yes about. My pastor says ‘Keep the main thing the main thing’ all the time. I repeat that to myself when opportunities come up. Is this the main thing or just another thing. Our values should drive our priorities and keep us on track.
Thanks CK. You nailed it. “Priorities over opportunities.” I love a well turned expression. Lee Iaccoca was famous for saying, “Keep the main thing the main thing.” It powerful. Thanks for sharing your insights
So we have this strange dichotomy, we become more and more comfortable with who we are, yet we must challenge who we are to grow!
We quickly say “I haven’t arrived” but sometimes our behaviors indicate we’ve settled in…
“Be yourself” is a great strength, but remember “yourself” is dynamic, changing, growing, developing..
🙂 I really hoped maturity would be easier!
Thanks Ken. Your insights help me wrestle with the problem of “be yourself” as an excuse to settle in. Very helpful!
“Define yourself” reminds me of Edwin Friedman’s differentiated leader – one who stands outside his organization’s anxiety, refusing to carry it for them, while remaining connected so that he can provide direction.
But a well-differentiated leader is one works at all three of these challenges, plus one more: refuse to give in to fear. When the team or organization you lead is experiencing anxiety they will make unhealthy demands on you (the quick fix, closing ranks, etc.). Fear of loss causes many leaders to fail.
Thanks for these three “handy” handles on what a well defined leader does to maintain those leadership qualities.
Thanks Bud. You’re really nailing what Jim Parker was talking about. Leaders feel pulled in many directions. He was forced to navigate the loss of people and assets during 9/11. When a person like that says, “Be Yourself,” it means something.
Thanks also for extending the conversation with ideas about the differentiated leader. I’ve seen leaders swing from over-connected to dis-connected. … Stand outside anxiety but stay connected. So helpful
Great advice as usual, Dan. The “Be Yourself” recommendation is absolutely essential: both in terms of regular self-assessment to know what’s going well and what needs refinement as well as monitoring the input / output balance.
When I read Challenge #2, I was reminded of the late Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix: Efforts are either urgent or non-urgent, either important or not important. There will always be important, urgent efforts that will pop up and need addressing. The key he suggests is doing important tasks when they are not urgent. Too many managers want you believe their assignments are urgent and important ‘because they decided it was so’. Sadly, we often gravitate to the non-urgent, unimportant tasks because they tend to be the ‘easiest’ since there’s minimal pressure.
Thanks John. (And thanks for all the twitter support!!)
Your addition or monitoring what’s going well and what needs refinement, as well as, input/output is so useful. It’s one thing to use the term self-reflection. It’s another thing to focus our reflection on something specific.
By the way, your use of language is important. I respect how you include the word refinement.
Covey and the Franklin Day Planner folks came to mind as I wrote this. I’m glad you brought this up.
Learn not to take your work home with you (easier said then done)! Take time to step back and enjoy life, don’t let your job destroy your life!
Thanks Tim. This is a big one. We are always on and always connected.
In some cases, it seems like disconnecting isn’t possible. But, somehow, it needs to be pursued.
Dan, I’ll join in with everyone else – Be yourself or someone else will define you – that’s absolute poetry. thank you. Richard
Thanks Richard. I appreciate you taking a moment to give encouragement. Best to you my friend.
I am amazed at your point number 2 and the concept of a pitfall of opportunity. For those who know a good deal when they see it, that could be dangerous indeed. Someone said ‘there’s more where that came from’. Your insight really helped me today so I can amend that to ‘there’s more where that came from, so keep your priorities in mind’. Now I have to get back, not to my email or replies to a million questions, but to another more important task I have set aside for when I have time. Thank you
Thanks Catie. Love how you brought your comment around to a colorful application of the ideas that are connected to the second point of this post.
Here’s to success!!
I enjoyed this post especially challenge #3. I’m currently in the process of trying to improve my leadership skills particularly in the realm of servant leadership. Something I’ve found is that while serving others is fulfilling there must be a balance of also serving my own personal needs.
Look forward to reading more of your content!
Thanks Chris. Your comment reminded that when we pour out in ways that align with our talent and values we are pouring into ourselves. We receive energy. There is, of course, a limitation to the energy cycle.
Thank you for sharing your insights.
This is so good…Life and Leadership is so much about growth, learning, and utilizing the tools and knowledge we gain along the way. I burned out and crashed about 2 years ago after building several different businesses over 15 years. I now highly value information like you are sharing in this blog. Thank you!
Thanks Jeff. It may be uncomfortable, but some of our greatest lessons are learned as a result of dark days. The other thing I find exciting is how dark days increase our value to others, as long as we are reasonably open with it.
Does it seem like I’m frivolous about dark days? I’m not. But, if we respond well, they make us better.
All that to say, I bet you have a lot to offer people. Cheers
I was just reading this, and I thought it was true of both men and women.
We pour out, but we forget to pour in.