What is a Leadership Derailer?

At DecisionWise, we measure leadership derailers on our 360-degree feedback surveys using a separate section from the normal leadership competencies. Without a derailers section, you are probably missing important pieces of your 360-degree feedback puzzle. Here are some common examples that show how derailers provide some important insight into 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

Download: Sample 360-degree Feedback Survey

Derailers guide us to specific areas 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 develop in their feedback.

What is a Leadership Derailer?

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. 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

Based on years of research and experience, we have identified 13 of the most common leadership derailers. These 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. Micromanager: 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. Aloof: 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. Complacent: 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. Download a sample to see how derailers appear on a sample survey and report:

360 Degree Feedback Survey Download

Related Post: Do You Suffer from the Horn Effect or Benefit from the Halo Effect?
Related Post: The Leadership Strength Model
Related Post: Dealing with the Competent Jerk
Related Post: The Path to Leadership Failure is Paved with Good Intentions

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