10 Things That Hold Leaders Back Vol. 2

10 Things That Hold Leaders Back Vol. 2

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By now you may have picked up on the fact that at Kindall Evolve we are deeply committed to creating a world of highly effective leaders.  Strong leaders can create thriving organizational cultures in which people are excited to contribute.  Therefore, our mission of equipping leaders with the tools they need to elevate their performance ultimately creates better organizations.

I'm sure this sounds much easier than it is. After all, there are many factors that are at play when it comes to creating best in class organizations.  We focus on leaders because they have a significant impact on the people, systems, vision, culture and results of an organization. Leaders set the tone and mirror what is acceptable within an organization. Leaders create compelling visions that inspire the people on their teams. Leaders have the keys….

From years of working with leaders at every level, studying leadership and conducting research, we have identified key factors that keep leaders from being their best and getting the best from their people.  We will begin sharing our list of 10 things that hold leaders back. This list is not all inclusive but, in our experience, these are the most common.

Whether you are an emerging, experienced or seasoned leaders, focusing on these 10 things will help you create more engaging work environments and meet your strategic goals.  This all ties back to the bottom line results of your organization, so please keep reading. 

Without further ado, here is #1 on the list of 10 Things that Hold Leaders Back.

#1 Lack of Self-Awareness

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Dr. Tasha Eurich, an industrial psychologist who has conducted research on self-awareness, looks at self-awareness in two ways: internal and external. Internal self-awareness is knowing yourself, your values, and your aspirations; external self-awareness is knowing how other people see you and how you impact others. In her research, she's discovered that people who work on both internal awareness and external awareness have much more success in their personal and professional lives. 

Why is self-awareness so critical for leaders?

Perhaps I can share a story.

When I was an internal HR Director, I supported a leader who thought he was great at leading people.  Over a short period of time, 70% of his team resigned and cited that he was the reason they were leaving the organization.  This, of course, got our attention in HR as well and caused concern amongst the senior leadership team.

When provided with feedback, he was resistant and extremely defensive. He disagreed with most of what was said and felt that it was nonsense. Instead of acknowledging that there were areas that he needed to develop and making a commitment to changing his behavior, he dug his heels in and continued leading as he saw fit.  His lack of self-awareness prevented him from taking accountability and eventually led to the termination of his employment, which was very unfortunate. 

Lack of self-awareness does not have to be career ending. For example, there was another leader who received tough and unflattering feedback. It shocked her and she felt blind sighted at first. After taking a few days to gather herself, she became determined to step up her game and demonstrate that she was capable of leading authentically while meeting her revenue goals.  She rolled up her sleeves, took advantage of available resources, and committed to making positive changes.  She was successful in doing so and was pleased to see that her efforts positively impacted the culture and the bottom-line results of her business unit.

Many people are unaware of the impact they have on others. Research suggests that nearly 80% of society lacks self-awareness. The statistics are staggering. But if you think about the people you know, how many truly know themselves and how they impact others? How many of them are leaders?

In an interview conducted by Knowledge@Wharton, Dr. Eurich states, "My research has shown that 95% of people think they’re self-aware, but the real number is closer to 10% to 15%. I always joke that on a good day, 80% of us are lying to ourselves about whether we’re lying to ourselves. It can be problematic. A lot of times, the people who have the most room to improve are the least likely to know." I concur!

Because leaders have a special and significant impact, it is paramount that leaders become more self-aware. Thankfully self-awareness can be improved upon when armed with an open mind and trusting relationships along with intentional action as noted below.

Here are some tips for improving your self-awareness:

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Journal Exercise

At the end of each day reflect and write about the following in a journal:

o   What went well? How did you react?

o   What did not go as desired or anticipated? How did you react?

o   What was your role in the things that went well? What did you do or say? What should you continue to do?

o   What did you do or say in situations that did not go as planned?

o   What is your desired outcome?

o   How can you ensure that you get the results you want?

Review the journal at the end of the week and make note of any themes that emerge.

o   Are there patterns?

o   What have you learned about yourself?

o   What actions will you implement next week?

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o   Reflect on times in the past when you performed at your best. What strengths did you use? How can you continue to leverage those strengths?

o   Reflect on times when you wished your performance had been stronger. What contributed to the lackluster performance and what can you learn about yourself from the situation? 


o   Ask 3 - 5 people who you trust to be honest with you. Make sure you ask people who care about you AND who will tell you the truth vs what they think you want to hear.

o   Prepare yourself for the feedback by planning to be open to what they share.

o   Ask for specific behavior-based examples (what did I do or say, etc.?).

o   Listen without being defensive and without responding except to say, “Thank You.”

Here are a few suggested questions:

1.     What do you believe I do exceptionally well?

2.     What would you like to see me do differently?

3.     How does my behavior impact you? 

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The journaling and feedback alone will help you learn valuable insight about yourself. Once you do, it is up to you to take action.  Here are a few suggestions:

Set Goals – Be Purposeful

o   Start by setting 3 – 5 goals that will positively impact yourself and others.

o   Make a commitment to yourself and hold yourself accountable.

o   Practice new techniques and learn new skills.

o   Track your progress.

o   Find an accountability partner to support you.

Stay tuned for the next edition which will cover #2 and #3 on our top 10 list of things that hold leaders back.


Jackie Kindall


Kindall Evolve Consulting




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