Don’t Sabotage Your Own Success

When you’re new to the workforce, enjoying leadership success can be a far off goal. The main focus is finding the right role and doing quality work. I know that was the case for me. But with time and experience (and a lot of hard work) come new opportunities to lead at higher levels. You go from joining a team to leading a team to eventually leading a department or major organizational function. Each time the strategy shifts.

A couple years ago I was privileged to have Mark Miller guest post on my site about surviving success. We all need a game plan to kick off a new opportunity. But our behavior needs an adjustment as well.

In his bestseller What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith shares twenty habits that can be largely overlooked at lower organizational levels, but have the potential to absolutely derail a senior leader who doesn’t change course. There isn’t room to share them all in this post, but I’d like to highlight five extra critical ones. Fail to implement them, and your best people may go looking for a new leader.

Man Stuck on Ladder

Adding Too Much Value

It’s crucial to learn how to influence when you’re not in charge. But when you are in charge, that same influence gets interpreted differently. As the boss, your two cents’ worth can easily be taken as a mandate. The more you give, the more restricted your team may feel. So resist the urge to share every comment that comes to mind – and when you do, be clear on whether it is simply an idea or a strong preference.

Winning Too Much

Leaders don’t get promoted without demonstrating results. They are often high achievers. But at some point, senior leaders must pick and choose their battles. Some causes are worth every ounce of energy and resources. Many are not. Know which hill you’re willing to die on and when it’s time to move on.

Withholding Information

Practically every organization has a communication problem in some regard – it’s a frequently mentioned employee engagement item year over year. Some leaders refuse to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others – dictator behavior at its finest. Others assume everyone has the information they need because they shared it in a single meeting last quarter. One is egregious, the other is misdirected but both can cause major performance breakdowns.

Not Listening

Goldsmith calls the failure to listen “the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.” Ouch. Failing to listen well may not be a show-stopper at lower organizational levels, but it’s crucial the closer you get to the top. I believe this is one reason coach training for managers has gained such popularity in the last decade. So listen actively, not just to gain information but to truly understand.

An Excessive Need to Be “Me”

We all have our quirks. The problem comes when different standards apply to different parties. When senior leaders insist “this is just how I am” when exhibiting behavior that is unacceptable for others, morale takes a big hit. No one likes double standards.

At the end of the day, leadership is a privilege. Not only that, it’s much easier to lead with a team that has your back. People are smart. They pick up on our behavior – good or bad. So if you’re in a senior role (or better yet, before you get there), do a behavior inventory. Find an area to improve and get to work. You’ll be the one who benefits most.

Nathan Magnuson is an executive leadership consultant, speaker and author of the books Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to see the exciting ways Nathan is helping organizations and teams become more effective with Leadership-in-a-Box.