Imagine you’re at the start of your career and you make a big mistake in your first role. You will probably lose your job.
Now imagine you’re the CEO of a large organisation and you make a big mistake. Chances are, everyone loses their job.
When you’re a leader, your actions have high impact. There can be a lot at stake when things go wrong.
Having said that, we’re all human. We all have our own strengths and flaws. By raising our awareness and working on ourselves, we can make a choice about how we want to show up in the organisation, and optimise our positive impact.
This newsletter explores how flaws are made, three common flaws, and how to address them. It’s just one way of looking at this topic, and I hope it gives you food for thought.
Where flaws come from
As with many things, it all starts in childhood. At that time, we’re influenced by the adults around us. How they treat us, what they teach us, and what they pay attention to. These experiences help shape our self-belief system – that is, what we believe to be true including what we believe about ourselves.
These beliefs may enable or limit us, and we may be unaware of this. There will be a lot happening sub-consciously, but maybe not so much consciously. When something happens in life, we filter it through our belief system. This triggers inner feelings and then outward behaviour.
Over time, these repeating patterns become embedded. If they are not helpful, they may deplete us personally as well as affecting our performance at work.
Example: Growing up, one of your parents is self-centred and critical of you. You learn to keep yourself safe by staying quiet about your needs. In adult life, this self-limiting belief means you are less likely to even recognise your own needs, never mind speaking up to assert them. Instead, you become a ‘people-pleaser’, and spend too much time worrying about everyone else.
I’m a coach. So, as you will probably guess, I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. When you are aware of your triggers, you can choose a different response. Over time, this becomes your new model. If you have the mindset of continuing to evolve, you’ll find greater fulfilment in life and be at peace with who you are.
Three common flaws
As a leader, you’ll want to have a broad range of strengths to increase your ‘range’ and ability to lead in any given situation. This usually means setting and achieving a vision, as well as nurturing relationships in service of people and purpose.
However, we all have flaws too. Below, we explore three of them – they’re based on a leadership tool called the Leadership Circle Profile (LCP).
Do you recognise yourself in any of these descriptions? Can you think of any others?
Needing to be liked and accepted
Your internal assumption is that you can stay safe by looking after other people. You feel OK when people like you and when you comply with other people’s expectations of you.
The behaviours that other people see include: Going along with what other people think; not expressing your needs and opinions; constantly looking for approval; checking and double-checking with those in authority before you take action.
- Strengths: You’re reliable and empathic, able to ‘read the room’, understand the atmosphere, and recognise the needs of others. You’re good at responding to other people’s body language and emotions. You probably make it easy for people to speak up because you affirm them. You’re reliable and do what you say you will. You know what to say and do to create harmony.
- Flaws: You may not know your own needs. You are unlikely to speak up enough, won’t take a position on important things, and will ‘go with the flow’ too much. You’re not assertive when you need to be, so you’re less likely to challenge the status quo or make a bold move when it’s needed. You don’t play to your strengths unless they fit with everyone else’s expectations. You may show up as lacking in confidence which will reduce your credibility. Either you won’t have a personal vision and purpose or you won’t be confident enough to drive it forward. Your leadership will suffer because you’ll be reluctant to take charge and control things when needed.
Needing to be right or seen as the ‘expert’
Your internal assumption is you get your sense of self-worth by being detached, superior and rational. You’re likely to feel good when you are right and have superior insight. While it might sound arrogant, what’s really going on is that you are keeping yourself safe by remaining uninvolved and avoiding risk.
What people see is that you withdraw, potentially coming across as aloof, distant, cynical and critical. You identify what’s wrong in a situation and focus on that – a problem/task-focused approach.
- Strengths: You often have real clarity of insight. You can cut through noise and complexity, analysing a lot of information to see what needs to be done. When people are being emotional, your detachment helps the group come back to what’s important. It may look as though you only care about good quality work and the ‘right answer’, but you also care about individual people. A cause or purpose will inspire you. You operate at a strategic level.
- Flaws: Because you’re focused on solving the problem, people may not feel ‘heard’ or cared for and supported. Instead, they are likely to feel judged. It might be harder to build trust, as you’ll be reluctant to show vulnerability. Relationships may be less of a focus for you, although these are crucial in leadership, especially if you are involved in large-scale transformation. You may dampen the mood, as you’ll be the person who focuses on what is wrong (even though your intention is positive, to try and create the best outcome).
Needing to control everything
Your internal assumptions are that by taking charge and being successful, people will admire you. You want to rise to the top compared with other people in terms of what you accomplish. For you to feel safe, failure must be avoided at all costs.
You get your sense of self-worth by achieving, because this gives you a sense of personal accomplishment and a feeling of being in control. You see the world comprised of winners and losers, and people with power stand the best chance of survival.
People see you being competitive and seeking perfection in yourself and your team. You’ll be very task-focused, will exert enormous effort and energy, and can overly push yourself to achieve goals. You probably won’t notice if people around you are dropping like flies through overwork.
- Strengths: You’ll usually excel in any situation because you work so hard. You’re always striving for continuous improvement and have a drive for results. You set high standards and may attract high-achieving types to work with you. You’re more confident to speak up than many others, even if it’s controversial.
- Flaws: You might not delegate effectively or you might micro-manage, and so won’t get the best out of your people. You might come across as overly dominant, aggressive and blunt. You’ll be so convinced of your own opinion that you might not accept other people’s views or feedback. You could overlook other people’s needs and aspirations – you might therefore unwittingly damage relationships. Your employees risk burn out.
What you can do about it
Remember, you exhibit these behaviours because they make you feel safe. They build your sense of self-worth and security. The LCP tool uncovers what you typically think, and the working assumptions or beliefs that show up in your behaviours. It’s a good starting point as it helps you to raise your self-awareness and ability to determine what you want. From that place, you can create a plan and support system to address your aim – and then you’ll truly flourish in life and be the best version of you!
Please contact me if you’d like an assessment of where you (and/or your team) fit within the LCP model and what this means to you.
With the help of a coach or other suitably qualified professional, you can work through a step-by-step process showing how to identify your beliefs, unpack them, understand where they came from, and create a vision of what you want:
- Recognise how you want to show up in the world
- Decide what you want to achieve to flourish and fulfil your potential
- Build an action plan made of baby steps and big bold steps
If you found this information useful, you might also enjoy reading (or re-reading) my other articles:
- Self-limiting beliefs and how to turn them off (this includes a process to follow)
- How to be an agile leader (includes the structure of the LCP tool)
- Escaping mindtraps
- How to empty your busy mind (explaining that your feelings are based on your inner thoughts not your external reality)
- Mindfulness (because this helps you reconnect with yourself)
- Mindfulness and what it means for you
- Emotionally intelligent teams
- How to re-boot your social skills and confidence
- Why you should celebrate your failures
- Introducing leadership agility (my first article from September 2011 and still valid today)
- Leadership agility compass (my second article and a close link to this month’s topic)
We’ll review which topics have been most popular in 2021 to see if any inspire you to re-read them, and will be back in the New Year with more leadership insights.