The Idea: The more power one possesses, the more deceived one becomes. Title, influence, and status can leave you in a bubble, vulnerable to losing touch. Our own insecurities amplify our susceptibility to manipulation, defensiveness, and bad decisions. The poisons of power can sneak up on all of us.   

Many of today’s most interesting organizations are digitally native and boundaryless leaving their traditional competitors in a state of panic. Years of not attending to their customer’s changing needs has finally caught up with them. The new economy has left many without an answer. 

What gets in the way?  

Over half of senior leaders fail within their first 18 months of taking on a new role. My research suggests that, for most, it’s a lack of emotional health. Everybody is insecure on some level. Chances are, your least attractive attributes are seen by all. Hiding insecurities hurts you much more than you think. After all, no one likes a perfect person. Leadership insecurities operate the same way, hindering our ability to honestly listen to feedback and lead change. When we feel insecure, we often pick one of five coping mechanisms: denial, repression, projection, rationalization, or outbursts of emotion.   

Which coping behavior do you see most? 

When our fears get the best of us, we automatically shut down our critical thinking. Triggers become insecurities and insecurities become blind spots, shielding us from honest feedback. Do your defense mechanisms get the best of you?

Author Patrick Lencioni reminds us in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: “Teams succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make teamwork so elusive.”  

When leaders don’t take their emotional health seriously the following dysfunctions set in:  

  • Lack of Vulnerability – leaders that fail to model a culture of vulnerability spark defensiveness and a culture that covers up mistakes. Why is it that most leaders that hate being controlled are some of the most controlling and ineffective? The most convincing people I know understand that vulnerability is the heart of a high performing team.
  • Fearing Opposition – leaders that don’t embrace opposing views seed a culture of groupthink. Any time a team embraces niceness over honesty, the culture falls victim to false unity. Can people within your team truly speak freely? Let’s remind ourselves, conflict and critique are essential for creativity. It’s the lifeblood of innovation.  
  • No Priorities – leaders that fail to articulate crystal clear “limited” priorities unknowingly lay the foundation for a lack of accountability. The healthiest leaders focus on very few priorities (ideally three to five) and embrace robust, ongoing discussions focusing on these critical few priorities.   

Any organization that doesn’t address the dysfunctional behavior of their leaders is destined to fall in these moments. And no coach worth their salt will say otherwise.  

Dysfunctional executives negatively impact the culture and the financial results of their respective organizations. Unchecked leadership insecurities create distrust and drains the energy and passion out of teams. 

To the point: leadership insecurities are part of being human. But are you embracing your leadership insecurities or are you denying, repressing, projecting, rationalizing, or allowing emotional bursts to disrupt your team?   

Who checks you on your own leadership insecurities?