Why Leaders Become Derailed

Much research (for example by Daniel Goleman and Lombardo and Eichinger) has been carried out as to why leaders end up seriously underperforming or being fired and it’s rarely down to lack of business acumen or technical expertise.

The reasons leaders become derailed include:

Overused strengths. When a strength is overused it becomes a weakness. Imagine someone who is really driven to perform but is so competitive that he steps on everyone to get where he wants to go.

Over Confidence. When confidence becomes complacency or even arrogance it can cause problems. Great leaders are also great learners. Once the learning stops, leaders, their people and their businesses stop growing and developing. Who can afford to stagnate in this day and age?

Lack of self management. This links back to my previous post about knowing yourself and showing yourself, with skill. While direct reports want to know their leaders on a personal level in order to build trust, they do not feel safe and secure coping with tears or tantrums.

Poor relationship skills. Outstanding leaders don’t become outstanding on their own. They rely on building strong, productive relationships with the people around them.

Not knowing their impact on others. We learn most, not from books or courses but from our bosses. Both good bosses and bad bosses. Great leaders can see themselves through the eyes of those they interact with. They also realise that they are communicating all the time, not just through their words but even more so through their actions. Knowing this helps them chose what they are communicating, consciously and carefully.

My questions to you are:

  • Which of these elements is most likely to derail you?
  • What can you do to prevent this?

8 Responses to Why Leaders Become Derailed

  • Hi Julie,

    Quite insightful. Soft Skills are definitely a must along side technical expertise. A need for balance. Indeed, self awareness is one of the marks of a good leader. One that not only knows his/her strengths, but also which of the elements derails them. It’s my opinion that a leader who can expresses their humanity to those within the sphere of their influence are willing to follow their example.

  • Regardless of which one of these things derails a leader, they are still derailed. I feel that those topics are actually the things good leaders intentionally steer clear of. Good leaders think through their decisions or actions and see the future results that today’s decisions will lead to. One element I see missing from the list is integrity. If followers don’t see that quality in a leader, they already know he or she will be prone to becoming derailed by all the others. Once that happens the leaders ability to lead is all but gone, because he or she has created an unethical environment that is non conducive to positive results.

    • Hi Bruce. Thanks for your contribution. Yes integrity is vital to good leadership. Different people would have different definitions of integrity and different views on what behaviours demonstrate integrity. What;s your take on how followers would recognise integrity in their leader?

      • Julie,
        Integrity is one of the “grey” areas of leadership. One definition to fit all circumstances is difficult at best. But there is one thing I have seen played out time and time again; to the point that I believe it is the one thing people notice about the integrity of as leader more than anything else. When people look at a leader the question they ask is many times; is he holding himself (the leader) to the same standards or behaviors he is expecting from us (the followers)? If the leader can accomplish that one thing, they are much more likely in the eyes of their followers to have integrity. Of course it is much more than that, but as a short explanation, it is simple and makes the point.

  • Julie,

    Thanks for pointing out self-management. I have always noticed the most difficult person to lead is yourself.

    Have a great weekend,

  • Hi Julie, are you using the Hogan Development Survey (HDS) or “Dark Side” report to help people identify their potential derailers.
    Very powerful as part of a talent coaching conversation.

    • Hi Ian

      Thanks for your comment. No I’m not using those tools but I am using Lominger, which is where some of the research is drawn from. How does what I say fit or otherwise with HDS?


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