A leadership derailer is a behavior that gets in the way of our progress. A derailer is not just a weakness. We all have many weaknesses that we may never choose to improve or need to master. A derailer is a weakness that requires improvement if we are to realize our potential.

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You can recognize a derailer using these four criteria:

  • A derailer has the potential to limit our progress.
  • Sometimes, a derailer can be linked to a talent taken to an extreme.
  • Multiple strengths cannot compensate for a derailer.
  • Others tend to focus on, and emphasize our weaknesses (Horn effect).

Common Leadership Derailers

The most common leadership derailers include:

  1. Lacks Focus: Easily distracted; shifts from task to task without getting the most critical things done.
  2. Not a Team Player: Selfish; places personal agenda before the good of the team.
  3. Disengaged: Appears bored or dissatisfied with work; does just enough to “get by.”
  4. Not Trusted: Violates or compromises the trust of others; has difficulty gaining the trust of others.
  5. Micromanages: Overly controlling; does not empower others with the freedom and latitude to do their best work.
  6. Volatile: Loses his/her temper; loses patience quickly; irritable and lacks composure.
  7. Lacks Confidence: Overly concerned with making mistakes; indecisive; avoids risk.
  8. Exclusive: Distant, unapproachable, or isolated; viewed as indifferent to others; fails to build effective relationships.
  9. Arrogant: Egotistical; displays a strong sense of entitlement.
  10. Closed-minded: Is closed to new ideas; not open to critical feedback; unwilling to consider other viewpoints.
  11. Eager to please: Overly concerned with being accepted and liked; defers to other people’s opinions.
  12. Perfectionist: Fails to recognize when something is “good enough;” obsessive; uncompromising.
  13. Stagnant: Avoids opportunities for personal growth or learning.

This list is not complete and there may be others that are more relevant to your organization.

We measure leadership derailers using a special section of questions on 360-degree feedback surveys. This section provides a contrast and comparison to the leadership competency results. Here are some common examples that show how derailers augment standard 360 feedback results:

Standard 360 Result: High Score on Results Orientation
Derailer Insight: High Scores on Micromanagement

Standard 360 Result: Low scores on Teamwork and Collaboration
Derailer Insight: High score on Closed-minded

Standard 360 Result: Low score for Decision Making
Derailer Insight: High score for Lacks Confidence

Derailers guide us to specific behaviors where we can take action. They often give us the “why” behind the results. Combined with the open-ended comments and the results from the leadership competency section, participants can clearly see themes appear in their feedback.

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