Newsletter #422 – Holding Ourselves Back

Whenever I begin working with a new client I ask what they might do to sabotage the coaching process. Most are able to answer. But sometimes individuals inadvertently sabotage themselves from moving forward in their careers, work or progress toward goals. January-February 2011 Harvard Business Review identifies five research-based ways in which people unintentionally stop themselves from becoming exceptional leaders.

  • Overemphasizing Personal Goals. Most of us have personal goals including success in our careers, building professional identity or meeting personal goals.  But “true leadership is about making other people feel better as a result of your presence and making sure your impact endures in your absence….If your goal is to lead” focus on making others or your team better. Then look at your own skills and resources. Overemphasis on building your own career can undermine your effectiveness and demoralize your associates.
  • Protecting Your Public Image. “At some point in their leadership trajectory, ambitious people must choose between image and impact, between looking powerful and empowering others. They must choose between impersonating a leader and being one.” Too much effort devoted to protecting one’s image can sabotage progress.
  • Turning Competitors into Enemies. Look carefully at people who challenge or compete with you. Listen carefully and learn from them. Try to build relationships and avoid jumping to conclusions about their motives. Taking a combative or defensive stance can stimulate tension and block progress.
  • Going it Alone. Leadership can be lonely and isolation can seem safer. But effective leaders and difference makers surround themselves with trusted confidants who give input and help evaluate decisions. These are people who know us well and care for us. I have five close friends who know me well, believe in me and are willing to give their honest perspectives. I love, appreciate and need each of them.
  • Waiting for Permission. Some leaders trudge on, waiting for someone to recognize their efforts and appear with new opportunities. But effective leaders use whatever influence they have and take action. People who wait in the wings often get forgotten.

What have you seen in yourself or in others that holds us back? What would you add to the list?


  1. Sabotaging Ourselves…

    Are you inadvertently sabotaging yourself from becoming an exceptional leader? Gary Collins in his blog post Holding Ourselves Back outlines five ways that people commonly derail their own leadership potential. He sites research from an article in the …


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