Why CEOs Fail

The 11 Behaviours That Can Derail Your Climb to the Top (And How to Manage Them)

“We’ve found that CEOs, as well as all leaders, are vulnerable to eleven derailers – deeply ingrained personality traits that affect their leadership style and actions.

The good news is that this failure can be prevented. When you learn to identify and manage these derailers, you can spot failure coming a long way off and take the steps necessary to keep it from hurting your career or your company.”

Note from the Coach: No cheating here. Here are the 11 reasons Leaders fail. If you’re feeling really brave, ask a member of your team to do it for you, to find out how well you’re doing. (You might need a pen and paper!)

Be Honest: Do you do this?

Test Yourself: The 11 Behaviors

1. Arrogance

You’re right. Everyone else is wrong.

Smart leaders can see when they’re being too stubborn, single-minded and self-righteous.

Unfortunately, most leaders today operate under highly stressful circumstances where they don’t see how their actions are hurting themselves and their companies.

2. Melodrama

You always grab the centre of attention.

Many CEOs live “larger than life” with waiting limousines, private jets and several homes.

This lifestyle demands attention and signals importance, but at the same time creates a dangerous downside for a leader: it causes separation from others and makes open, honest dialogue and problem-solving extremely difficult.

3. Volatility

Your mood shifts are sudden and unpredictable. People will try to avoid being in your presence.

Reflection can cool you down before you go into a rage.

4. Excessive Caution

Overly cautious leaders subconsciously deny their imagined worst-case scenarios. Recognising this fear and making it conscious lessons its power.

5. Habitual Distrust

You focus on the negatives.

It would be unusual if people weren’t wary, but there is a distinction between healthy scepticism and virulent mistrust: the former involves being realistic, reacting appropriately to circumstance and environment, while the latter involves being inappropriately and egregiously suspicious.

6. Aloofness

You disengage and disconnect.

Have longer conversations and be more emphatic when making your point. Try to read your direct reports and communicate with colleagues to see if your message is really connecting.

7. Mischievousness

You know that rules are only suggestions.

Mischievous leaders are often oblivious to the impact they have on people, and above all the other derailers a coach can most help with this one in raising their consciousness.

8. Eccentricity

It’s fun to be different just for the sake of it.

Re-evaluate your leadership style. You may view yourself as a highly creative leader who inspires through intellectual discourse, but your people may view you as a scattered and unfocused leader whose best ideas are wasted.

9. Passive Resistance

Your silence is misinterpreted as acceptance.

Passive-resistant CEOs appear to the world as pragmatic and political leaders. However beneath the surface is an unconscious duplicity. During meets, for example, passive-resistant CEOs may nod in agreement and support a project, but privately they disrespect the project and withhold real support.

10. Perfectionism

You get the little things right while the big things go wrong.

Seriously examine the costs of perfectionism: being stressed out, missing opportunities by double-checking work and diminished productivity from direct reports because you refuse to delegate.

11. Eagerness to Please

You want to win any popularity contest.

A common concept is that people pleasing is aimed at CEOs rather than the other way around. Many CEOs are actually pleasers themselves, reaching their positions precisely because of their skills at making people feel good. Innovation and bold moves are thus largely absent.

Extracts copyright David L. Dotlich, Peter C. Cairo.

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