4 Derailers That Will Undermine Your Leadership

“Because he believes so deeply that he is right, a severely self-righteous person doesn’t realize that he is behaving in a self-righteous manner.”
Bob Johansen, Get There Early

“The three primary derailers are difficulty handling change, not being able to work well in a team, and poor interpersonal relations.”
Susan Scott, Fierce Leadership

What will do you in? If you are in a leadership position at all, what will do you in, making you utterly ineffective? What will reach up and cause you real harm?

I was revisiting some books I have presented earlier and was struck by these four problemsthese “derailers.”

The first comes from Bob Johansen in Get There Early, and the next three come from Susan Scott in Fierce Leadership. Both books are worth reading. (But if you want to laugh out loud at her “directness,” read Susan Scott. She is a hoot!)

So, here are the four derailers. (The word derailer comes from the Susan Scott quote):

  • Derailer #1 – Self-righteous arrogance.
    When a leader makes a mistakeand he/she will make a mistakewe need a leader who is capable of saying, “I’ve made a mistake.” To make that kind of admission requires humility, and self-righteousness is a pretty big enemy of such humility. In my view, we’ve had enough examples of leaders who will not admit their mistakes. Such self-righteous denial can undermine credibility in a hurry.
  • Derailer #2 – Difficulty handling change.
    Change is now arriving far more quickly, with additional changes coming at shorter and shorter intervals. If you have difficulty handling change, you are truly having difficulty functioning in this VUCA world: a world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Yes, difficulty handling change in this kind of world can certainly derail you.
  • Derailer #3 – Not being able to work well in a team.
    There is little that can be accomplished alone these days. The ability to collaborate well with other members of a team is a true survival skill. Failure to do this will put you pretty close to the ineffective end of any scale.
  • Derailer #4 – Poor interpersonal relations.
    This is related to #3 (teams), but it applies to all interactions. Leaders have to like people. You have to get along with people and communicate effectively with other people to build good effective relationships. Poor interpersonal relations will certainly lead to a long list of troubles.

So, to stay on the rails, rather than be derailed:

  1. Work on humility – combat any inclination toward self-righteousness.
  2. Embrace change — don’t reject, or even strongly resist, change.
  3. Be a good team player and play well with others — don’t be a complete loner, or a team underminer.
  4. Cultivate interpersonal relationships and work on building more relationships – do not “stay away” from other folks.

So, how are you doing? Are you safely on the rails, or are you on the verge of being derailed?

Randy Mayeux


Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

2 responses

  1. Over the years, I have found that dealing with unqualified employees is pretty straight forward. However, when personalities (yours and theirs) gets involved is when your leadership skills (or lack thereof) raises its head.

    You cannot treat all employees exactly the same because different things motivate differently people differently (I can’t believe I said that!)

    As a leader all eyes will be on you to see how you address problems. Are you the self righteous person mentioned; can you admit there is more than one way to accomplish a task and just maybe it is in the best interest of your employee and team to let them decide a course of action. That is how they learn. Do you teach them and let them experience the results of their decision? Or do you come behind them and fix it.

    Note that if you fix it, you never gave them a true learning experience. The relationship you build on your team (without cultivating favorites) has a major impact n the teams long term success.

    I once had an employee tell me “I didn’t always like what you said, but I always trusted you to tell the truth!”

    That’s relationship!

  2. I love that last quote, Charles! And that’s exactly true. Trust trumps pleasing the crowd every time.

    Thanks so much for your great insights, as always!

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