There is a strong case, which I support, for focussing on strengths in leadership development. And yet the harsh reality is that derailers – usually driven by positive intentions – can get in the way, and prevent us from using our strengths to full advantage.

One way to derail your leadership FAST is to allow one of these12 derailers* to block your leadership effectiveness. Which one are you guilty of?

1. Staller – analysis paralysis

Your positive intention: High quality solid outcome.

What others experience: You take too long to take action, often miss key deadlines or opportunities. You are perceived as a blocker to progress.

2. Controller – command and control

Your positive intention:  Control a quality outcome.

What others experience: You are directive, and stifle initiative and innovation.

3. Cyclone – bull at a gate

Your positive intention: Get Results

What others experience: You are in a hurry to achieve results, and often leave a wake of destruction and disengagement behind you.

4. Doer – can’t delegate

Your positive intention:  Produce a high quality outcome.

What others experience: You hoard work and responsibility, to the detriment of yourself and your team.

5. Avoider – conflict averse

Your positive intention:  Keep the peace and protect relationships.

What others experience: You are reluctant to face tough conversations and situations, often create challenging team dynamics as a result.

6. Fence-sitter – indecisive leader

Your positive intention: Get the right outcome.

What others experience: You provide a lack of leadership and direction, creating bottlenecks in progress and frustration for others.

7. Know-it-all – closed to other ideas

Your positive intention: Back your strengths and deliver quality.

What others experience: You are reluctant to consider new ideas or input from others.

8. Guardian – inability to innovate

Your positive intention:  Guaranteeing consistent quality results.

What others experience: You prefer the status quo, are reluctant to change, can’t think laterally, and put a low focus on innovation.

9. Micromanager – management on a leash

Your positive intention: Raise the standard through quality output.

What others experience: Your supervision is excessive, and you are often perceived as stifling and untrusting.

10. Poker face – showing no emotion

Your positive intention: Accurate communication.

What others experience: Your non-expressive communication style is hard to read, and/or your direct verbal communication style can be damaging. You struggle to read between the lines.

11. People burner – poor people skills

Your positive intention: Get results.

What others experience: You lack people skills, put people offside and may even be at risk of a bullying claim by the way you prioritise achieving tasks over people and relationships.

12. Tactician – poor strategic thinker

Your positive intention: Delivering outcomes now.

What others experience: You are reactive to daily pressures, buried in the day to day, and are unable to hold the broader, strategic view.

You know your good intentions. Others only see your behaviour, and are making judgments on that.

To avoid derailing your leadership:

  • Decode – build awareness of the problem
  • Discover – better understand the drivers motivating your behavior
  • Develop – determine a pathway forward.

Have an Extraordinary day.



* These derailers come from my latest book Developing Direct Reports: Taking the guesswork out of leading leaders. In writing this, my co-authors and I drew on the latest in leadership theory and our professional experience in leadership development, to determine 12 globally recognised leadership derailers.

To understand more about the derailers, the behaviors that drive them, and how to address them, check out ‘Developing Direct Reports: Taking the guesswork out of leading leaders’.


Subscribe to our blog.