The One Trait I Have Seen Derail Leaders’ Careers

What makes one leader successful while another “crashes and burns”?

If there is a tipping point in a leader’s career, what would it be?

In my business life, I have seen individuals develop into remarkable leaders and I have seen their colleagues gradually disappear into mediocrity.

The remarkable ones “see” themselves differently. 

They don’t see themselves as an expression of leadership pedagogy.

Derailed leaders find themselves consumed by the “Leadership 101 Rulebook”, relying on theoretical concepts of leadership developed by the consulting and academic community.

They are derailed by applying what OTHERS believe leadership to be and not “making a good choice” about who THEY want to become as a leader.

Leadership isn’t about following the principles espoused by experts, it’s about discovering the path to follow that reflects the individual’s unique qualities and the special circumstances of the organization.

These proven tactics (they worked for me) are simple yet effective in breaking away from expected leadership norms and staying on the rails to become a successful leader.

  1. Throw out your leadership books. You don’t need them. You ARE a leader and the challenge is to discover your way forward on your own. You don’t need anymore schooling on the art – except from me ?
  2. As a substitute for pedagogues,find leader bloggers who have a practical track record of achieving interesting things; who bring a different and contemporary perspective to the challenges of leadership. I like Seth GodinSir Richard Branson  and Guy Kawasaki.
  3. Go ask people what they expect from their leader. Don’t assume what you should do because “they” say what is needed. Talk to the people who report to you and ask them what they need. Serve them and watch the magic.
  4. Lighten up. Relax. Shed the uptight image. Be more open to different ways of doing things. Dump the internal rules and policies in your organization you know are restrictive and make little sense. Your team will see what you are doing and will love you for it.
  5. Keep it honest and real. Don’t bullshit people. They know when you’re doing it and will tag you as a loser, phoney and not worthy of attention. They will check out and leave you a leader with no followers.
  6. Learn some names. It’s the easiest way to connect with people. You remember – they love it – and tell others. Word spreads. Your brand builds. Your “shield to irrelevance” gets stronger as employee loyalty to you grows.
  7. Tell someone to p*** off when someone is trying to undermine you and see you “go down”. Ignore the internal politics of the situation. Stand up and defend yourself. Earn the right to stand among the fearless.
  8. Regularly visit the most demanding customers you have; the ones that constantly whine and snivel about your products and how you treat them. Put yourself in the lions den; show courage, act on their issues and follow up to ensure they are satisfied with what you’ve done.
  9. Buy dinner for a competitor. The market you serve is a community; connect with EVERYONE in it. Accumulate as many perspectives as you can to utilize at an appropriate time.
  10. Talk to someone who has been fired– if they will talk to you. Try and learn the dynamics that eventually led to the person’s exit. This is not a judgement call; rather an opportunity to understand the dynamics at play. Deposit the learning in your employee loyalty file.

There you are: Ten ways to be “see” yourself differently than other leaders and avoid derailment.

Get going.

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