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The World Lost Another Leader (#93)

The Confident Leader

In his book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of a student who got into an elite school but ended up in the bottom of her premed classes. Although her admission to the school clearly qualified her, her low placement in her class was a key derailer for her to the point of changing majors. Gladwell commented, “the world lost a doctor.” Similarly, we are on the verge of losing leaders we can’t afford to lose.

A leader must be big enough to admit their mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.
— John Maxwell (American author and speaker)

This Week’s Edition

Leadership derailment: when a leader is unexpectedly unable to perform despite their past track record. They are unable to achieve their career goals and often state, “I feel stuck.”

Clarify Your Thinking

Mark, a talented and caring CEO, was lamenting the loss of one of his leadership team members. He described the situation:

Andi was hired as the top operations leader. She was chosen from among her peers who were resentful for being passed over. They expressed their frustration in subversive ways.

Andi questioned her leadership by sharing with Mark, “can I really do this?  If it’s this bad this early, what does that mean for the future? I’m stuck.”  

Andi ended up opting out. She quit.

Leadership derailment is when a leader is unexpectedly unable to perform despite their past track record. They are unable to achieve their career goals and often state, “I feel stuck.”

Leaders at high risk of derailment often begin to respond uncharacteristically in one (or more) of three primary ways:

  • Moving away: distancing themselves from others

  • Moving toward: overly ingratiating themselves with others

  • Moving against: overpowering or manipulating others

Seeking the approval of her peers, Andi attempted to move toward her team, but her efforts were seen as groveling, inauthentic and trying too hard. She was rebuffed. 

The world cannot afford to lose otherwise qualified and competent leaders:

Old Thinking: I am stressed out, burned out and exhausted. I’m not effective. I’m thinking about quitting, but will another job be any different?

New Thinking: I may be at risk of derailment.  I need to get some help.

Thoughts Lead to Actions

Often the greatest factor for potential leadership derailment is a struggle with relationships. Emotional Intelligence is key to supporting leaders to build mutually satisfying productive relationships. 

The simplest way to take action to insure against derailment is to take an EQi assessment. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) tracks four main skills to determine risk of derailment:

  • Impulse control: resisting or delaying impulses to act

  • Stress tolerance: coping with stressful situations

  • Problem solving: finding solutions when emotions are involved

  • Independence: freeing from emotional dependency; self-directed

Increasing your skill level in any of these four areas will decrease your likelihood for derailment. 

In addition, you can take these steps:

  1. Step One: cultivate self-awareness

    • Use your leadership thinking time to capture your thoughts around your leadership behavior: evaluate your impulsivity, stress levels, lack of decisiveness or over reliance on others.

  1. Step Two: assess the relationship with your team members

    • Solid relationship?

    • Rocky relationship?

    • Broken relationship?

  1. Determine a gameplan for each relationship

    • Ways to maintain or improve

Andi was unsuccessful in building the relationships with her former peers. This was a derailer for her. The world lost another leader.

Boost Your Performance

Keep the leadership train on track. Here about the story of a new client who eventually confesses the need to not lose himself amid the BIG job he has as the top leader in his organization. Find out how we coached through that issue in this week’s video.

What’s Your Opinion?

Is anyone on your team at risk for derailment? Share with me at:

Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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