Could You Be Self-Sabotaging Your Leadership Potential?

Behavior patterns are a funny thing – they are probably largely responsible for your current successes while simultaneously blocking your full potential.

Here’s a very loose interpretation of how this might work: You receive a long-awaited promotion and bring all the knowledge and expertise you’ve gained over the years to your new role. You also bring certain behavior patterns to the job that make up who you are as a leader and have served you well. After all, what you did and how you performed are clearly working for you. Otherwise you wouldn’t have been promoted. Right?

The danger in situations where past behavior has resulted in your moving forward into a new role is that what got you “here” isn’t necessarily going to work anymore. Behavior patterns that have worked in the past aren’t always what will work in the present. This can be tough to evaluate, especially since, in the fast pace of the day, it’s extremely appealing to rely on what you already know. I mean, who has time to think and reflect on what could work when you can look at your past and see what has worked?

One of ways this self-sabotage shows up often is in new leaders who are freshly promoted into their first management role. The tendency is to remain focused on the tactical aspects of their team rather than making the shift towards strategic thinking. Making shifts like this are challenging. They take courage and a willingness to step out onto the ledge and explore new ways of thinking and behaving rather than falling back on what you know.

If you relate, it might be worth considering whether you are sabotaging your own potential as a leader. 

Here are 3 ideas to consider…

1. You focus on setting tasks for your team instead of the overall direction.

Nobody likes being micromanaged. Not only is micromanagement nota requirement of good leadership, it’s the opposite of what we need our leaders to do. The leader’s role is to set the vision for what could be– for the destination– and then expect their team to bring their knowledge and expertise to bear in figuring out how to make it happen.

If a team member has a tactical question, resist the urge to answer it directly. Instead, set the vision and lead with questions that encourage their own creative thinking and help them identify how they can bring their strengths to bear in figuring out how to get from point A to point B. It can also be useful to create systems that will keep you updated on the progress of your team so you don’t have to check-in every hour on the hour. Being hands-off doesn’t mean being unaware.

2. You say yes more often than is helpful.

No one can do everything. And, in most cases, even if you can do everything, you shouldn’t. Depending on your role, it might be more useful to assess who is the right fit for a task instead of jumping in and doing it yourself.

One way to tell if you’re sabotaging your potential by doing too much is to consider a handful of your most recent decisions in light of how many could have been made by somebody else on your team. Ask yourself why you made them. If the answer is because it was easier or faster, then it might be time to reassess the real value that you bring to your team and how to bring your behavior more in line with that value.

3. You don’t ask (enough) questions.

For many organizations, “lower-level” teams are schedule and task driven while “higher-level” teams are project and strategy driven. It’s not necessarily appropriate for entry level professionals to ask a lot of questions. Their role is to learn how the organization works from a tactical on-the-ground level. But, as people move up and into management level positions, this shifts and their role becomes increasingly about asking why.

At the highest levels, leaders should always question why and never assume that a current process is right just because it’s the way things have always been done. Without asking “why?”, it’s impossible to discover what might be.  And, we need our leaders to point us towards the potential of the future rather than sticking to the patterns of the past.

What other ways do you think we, as leaders, sabotage our own potential? How is this limiting what we – and our teams – can accomplish?

About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.

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