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  • Writer's pictureBryce Barker

Unraveling leadership derailers: A path to personal and professional growth

I recently attended a webinar, hosted by Michigan Society of Association Executives, which did a deep dive into the intricate realm of leadership derailers. These derailers are subtle yet potent habits and behaviors that can stall your promising career. They often stem from a lack of self-awareness and self-management, hindering your ability to fully leverage your strengths and talents. But, with awareness comes transformation. Below, we will touch on the top eight leadership derailers as well as highlight the strategies to navigate around these obstacles and propel your leadership journey forward.


Unveiling the top eight leadership derailers:

  1. Not listening  Do you find yourself formulating responses while others speak, or constantly interjecting? This behavior not only diminishes the value of others' contributions but also reflects a lack of genuine interest. Practice active listening by being fully present, asking questions, and resisting the urge to jump in while they are speaking.

  2. Closed-mindedness Prejudging others or situations can limit your capacity to learn and grow. Instead, cultivate curiosity and openness to diverse perspectives. Approach interactions with an open mind, embracing the opportunity to expand your understanding and enrich your experiences.

  3. Ignoring audience dynamics Effective communication relies on understanding your audience's preferences and adapting your message accordingly. Whether they resonate more with visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning, tailor your communication style to foster deeper connections and enhance engagement.

  4. Low emotional intelligence (EQ) While IQ may determine your cognitive prowess, EQ plays a pivotal role in your interpersonal relationships and overall success. Develop your emotional intelligence by refining your self-awareness, empathy, and relationship management skills.

  5. Not asking for help Relying solely on your own knowledge can lead to stagnation. Embrace vulnerability and recognize that seeking help is not a sign of weakness but rather a testament to your commitment to growth and improvement.

  6. Inability to build great teams  As a leader, it's imperative to cultivate an environment where your team members feel valued and inspired to excel. Invest in their development, provide clear career paths, and foster a culture of collaboration and innovation.

  7. Holding onto underperforming talent While loyalty is commendable, it's essential to prioritize the collective success of your team over individual attachments. Address performance issues promptly and decisively, ensuring that your team remains aligned with your organizational goals.

  8. Not building key relationships Building strong internal and external relationships is fundamental to your professional success. Cultivate partnerships, foster collaborations, and invest in nurturing meaningful connections that amplify your impact and influence.

Now that you know what to look for, what is the path to transformation?

Step 1 – Awareness: The first step in transformation is awareness. Acknowledge your susceptibility to derailers and identify potential triggers.


Step 2 – Acceptance: Embrace the need for personal and professional development.


Step 3 – Action: Choose to do something about it. Commit to implementing tangible steps towards positive change.


Equation for change: (DxV) + F > R

D – Dissatisfaction with current situation

V – Vision of the future situation

F – First steps towards change

R – Resistance to change


The formula suggests that for meaningful change to happen, the product of dissatisfaction, vision, and practical first steps must be greater than the resistance to change.


While leadership derailers pose significant obstacles, they also offer opportunities for personal growth and professional transformation. By recognizing and addressing these behaviors directly, you pave the way for unlocking your complete leadership potential and navigating toward success. AOE has extensive experience in leadership development, coaching and organizational success. Reach out today to learn more.

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