I’m the Man! Now What?

Keith Robinson discusses why some leaders succeed while others fail.

By By Keith Robinson, Extraordinary Talent Consulting, LLC | February 28, 2010


So you’ve reached a position of leadership. Good for you. The view can be good from the top, but now you’re working without a safety net.

Why do some leaders continue to ascend while others plateau or fail? People driven to succeed often move into roles that require them to lead others. There are those who take to this role like a duck to water. We shower them with platitudes like: “He has charisma,” “She really gets it” or “I would walk through a wall for him.” 

There are those who attain leadership roles as a consequence of their skills and abilities as a technician in their field. We follow them because we respect the fact that they have figured something out the rest of us haven’t. 

Some simply fall into leadership roles because when the organization asked for volunteers and everyone lined up, the rest of the group stepped back and they were busy checking their Blackberrys. For as many leaders there are in the world, there are different paths to the top. The point being, leadership is personal.

Why is it that some continue to rise and some don’t? Those who top out have probably fallen into one of the key traps of leadership. Their ego has outpaced their intellect. When ego outpaces intellect, a leader has begun to believe the platitudes and all else be damned. They have missed a key to continued leadership success: self-awareness. They have forgotten about the others that propel the business forward by executing the plan, building customer relationships, selling the product and “hammering the nails.”

The result of this phenomenon is leadership stagnation, frustration and, in some cases, outright failure. How do you know if you’re in this situation? Here are some questions you should ask:

  1. Reflection. Look back on recent discussions you’ve had with your managers and employees. When you met with them, was the discussion focused? Was it all about your ideas or did you focus on them, their ideas and their development? In every meeting with members of your team, did you try to make them better?
  2. Feedback. Do you seek feedback from those you lead? If so, what do you do with it? If you act on it and adjust your approach, then you may be okay. If you hear it and trash it, watch out. Ask someone you trust for their perspective, and listen to what they say.
  3. Change. Ask others their view of how you handle change. A key trait of successful leaders is adaptability. Are you Gumby or a Pet Rock?
  4. Disclosure. Do those who follow you know you? I mean really know you? The most successful leaders are authentic. They build trust by sharing aspects — the good, the bad and the ugly — about themselves with their team. Do you?
  5. Diversity. Take inventory of your team. What do you see? If your team is filled with yes-people, look out. Perennially successful leaders surround themselves with people who think differently, approach problems differently, have complementary skills and see the world from a different perspective.

These are simple questions with complex answers designed to see if your ego is outpacing your intellect. Give them a try.

Read more blog posts by Keith Robinson here