Do You Fall Into These Leadership Traps?


This month, we’re talking about what kind of leader you want to be. As an executive coach, I’ve helped many leaders identify and address their personal stumbling blocks so that they can reach their full potential. Take a look at this list of some of the most common leadership traps. Which ones strike a chord with you?

The trap: You get bogged down in the small stuff. You often get distracted from the work that’s going to make the most difference. The fix: Identify the top three areas that reflect where you can have the biggest impact on the business and make the highest and best use of your skills. This is where you should focus your energy.

The trap: You don’t connect the dots, so colleagues may misinterpret the meaning behind your actions. The fix: First, get clear about the top three things that guide your leadership. Then use it to frame up what you say and do. In other words, regularly give others insight on what you think is important, how you measure success and the results you are trying to achieve.

The trap: You aren’t communicating the bigger picture. Are you telling people what you want to do but leaving out the “why”? The fix: Connect what you are proposing to how it relates to what’s right for the business or team.

The trap: Emotions get the better of you. You have trouble managing your moods and reactions. Your tone and body language convey stress or frustration. The fix: Practice self-care to keep yourself centered, grounded and positive. Learn strategies to manage your emotions when your buttons get pushed.

The trap: You bring more negative energy than positive. The ability to spot and flag problems or risks is a strength, but you may be coming off as a naysayer. The fix: Frame your concerns more positively. There’s a big difference between “There’s a lot that could go wrong with this idea.” and “I really like Points A, B and C of this idea. And let’s also consider these other aspects…”

The trap: You don’t make the most of your team. You sense there’s untapped potential and a lack of engagement. The fix: Get to know the strengths and passions of your team members so that you can proactively assign them work that plays to them, and will get them excited.

The trap: You ignore office politics. Perhaps you’d prefer to remain above it all and let your work speak for itself, but what’s going on politically in your office affects your ability to get results. The fix:  Look at who has the resources, information and influence you need to get business results. How can you get those people in your corner?

The trap: You put networking on the backburner. I get it: You’re busy, and networking seems time-consuming or intimidating. But you need strong relationships to accomplish your goals and help your career grow. The fix: Make networking a habit. Even taking a few minutes each week to pass along an interesting article or make an introduction can strengthen your relationships.

Which of these traps do you fall into? This week, pick one of the areas that give you trouble and see what you can change. My book “Show Up. Step Up. Step Out. Leadership Through a New Lens” has more resources you can use. Remember, you don’t have to tackle it all at once. Small steps can lead to big results.