Guest Post by Bill Treasurer
First, you might ask yourself, what is the Leadership Killer? And to that I say, good question indeed. As a leadership consultant for more than 20 years, I’ve come to recognize definitive patterns in styles and behaviors of good leaders. There are key characteristics that bolster the leader, and there are certain habits that will take the leader and their team down. One of these habits is what I call The Leadership Killer. There’s a little Killer in all of us, and if that doesn’t sound ominous to you, you might already be in trouble.
My friend of 30+ years, Captain John “Coach” Havlik, Navy SEAL (Retired), and I recently co-authored a new book, The Leadership Killer: Reclaiming Humility in an Age of Arrogance. We wrote the book while examining hubris and the role it plays in killing leadership. Hubris, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “exaggerated pride or self-confidence.” Other authorities define it as dangerous overconfidence. Neither definition sounds like something you should want to aspire to as either a new or experienced leader. Rather, your goal is to avoid this at all costs—either by never becoming hubristic or taking a good hard look at yourself in the mirror and changing your ways tout suite, if you’ve already headed in that direction.
How to Avoid the Leadership Killer
John and I aren’t shy when it comes to admitting that we’ve both fallen prey to the Killer, hubris. We have both been the victims of our own ego-driven self-sabotage. We are seasoned, but not unscathed. Many of the lessons we offer in our book were earned the hard way, through our own faulty and arrogant leadership styles. We suspect though, that you’d rather avoid similar circumstances and instead learn from a couple of guys who have “been there, done that.” Whatever bad you’ve done as a leader in the past, put it in the ground so those good leaders can grow. If you’re just starting your leadership journey, grow where lessons are cultivated. Those are the best environments for learning and ensuring your path will be challenging and rewarding.
Speed Bumps are Inevitable
No one can choose a leadership career and expect it to be easy. As you progress, you will face many challenges, obstacles, and setbacks. Be thankful for that, because facing them is how you develop and strengthen your leadership. A leader’s character is defined by how he handles, or mishandles, such speed bumps. Speed bumps cause stress, and that stress can increase the temptation to misuse your leadership power. The leader who deftly manages the Killer will be able to learn from speed bumps without skidding off the road.
The Killer is Out There
The Killer is deadly serious and means business. Most leaders set out to do good, but even they can be corrupted and the culprit is most often the Killer. So be proactive. Look for the Killer in you. Think about a time when life let you know that you’d gotten too cocky, and write down the answers to the following:
- What caused you to become so full of yourself?
- What outcome did the cockiness lead to?
- What did you learn about yourself in the process?
- How do you honor those lessons in the way you lead today?
Knowing that the Killer can strike anytime gives you the opportunity to examine past behaviors, and the awareness to keep your ego in check before anything unfortunate happens again.
You Get to Decide
You may find it surprising, but what the Killer does with you and your leadership is up to you. Hubris wreaks havoc when your self-will runs amok. Hubris appears when you let your leadership power go to your head. The Killer arises from immodesty and immaturity. What tempers hubris? What will bring your leadership back to a career filled with altruism, opportunity, and authenticity is humility. It’s within you just as much as the Killer, but accessing it can be a challenge. You can move from the darkness of hubris in the lightness of humility. Are you ready for the journey?
Bill Treasurer is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting and author of five books on courage and leadership, including the international bestseller, Courage Goes to Work. Giant Leap has led over 1,000 leadership programs across the world for clients that include NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, UBS Bank, and eBay. Treasurer is a former member of the U.S. High Diving Team and attended West Virginia University on a full athletic scholarship. @BTreasurer BillTreasurer.com