Through coaching I observe some core leadership behaviours that can set leaders up for success, but when taken too far, they have a real downside. Some leaders self-sabotage more frequently than others, and some sabotage themselves in a way that is more debilitating. However, it’s not a question of if they self-sabotage; the better question is how they respond to it and whether or not we fight it.
To determine if you’re sabotaging yourself, consider these traits that sound positive on the surface but can have negative implications in the long term
1. Thriving under pressure
Some leaders work well when they’re under the pressure of a deadline. While this can be a positive trait in an emergency, it’s a form of self-sabotage if they use it as a crutch to trigger focus. Thriving under pressure is also known as procrastination.
2. Thoroughly exploring all options
Gathering a lot of information can be helpful for making decisions. But someone who is an over-thinker can sabotage the process instead of supporting it. Too much information shifts the emphasis to a negative spiral of anxious thoughts of “What if?”
3. Being in control
Staying in control and never being caught off guard sounds like someone who is good at preparation. However, if always being in the driver’s seat becomes the main focus, the leader can easily turn into a control freak.
4. Pursuit of excellence
Wanting to do something perfectly can be a great thing. However just as craving control can turn into being a control freak, striving for perfection can lead to becoming a perfectionist.
The problem is that perfection is rarely achieved in any environment. No matter what is achieved, the leader can always find ways to make something more perfect. Striving for perfection creates an impossible standard and a self-critical outlook.
What do if you recognise these traits…
The first step is acknowledging that you are self-sabotaging. Monitor your behaviour and thought patterns and start a self-sabotage log. Also pay attention to the negative thoughts in your head. If they’re causing you to not do something, decide if it’s a helpful response or not.
Once you identify potential negative behaviours, plan to respond accordingly. For example, doing the action that’s opposite to your self-sabotage. If you think you work better under pressure, for example, decide to try doing it right away to see what happens. If you need to feel in control, say “yes” to a request where you feel outside of your comfort zone.
People who sabotage themselves often have self-esteem issues that could benefit from confidence building. When you have low confidence, you’re more likely to rely on behaviours that support those feelings. If this is the case write down a list of what makes you successful, special, and unique. Take time to acknowledge your efforts and what you’ve done well.