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 Award-winning business author and broadcaster

Leadership trainer and coach

Keynote speaker

  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tang

Stay on track by recognising your derailment factors

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Leadership derailment was defined by Furnam (2013) as the leader who is “…thrown off course” or “unable to move forward”.  Experiences of derailment may include being demoted, or failing to reach a promotion – even failing unexpectedly when it was thought that you would reach a higher position.  It occurs when a leader is unable to adapt their skills to organisational changes or demands.  It is maintained when the leader refuses to believe that such adaptive behaviour is in their power to manage.

How this happens is simple - even the leaders with positive skills sets have a “dark side” which can impact the performance of their positive skills:

  • A leader who prides themselves on integrity may be rigid or consistently impose their views on others;

  • The leader who is “innovative” may be unrealistic, or have little attention to the demands they place on people, materials or budget

The leader who can 'keep calm and carry on', who is always 'moving forward' may not spend enough time acknowledging what happened and how to deal with it, or avoid it, or even value it for next time. 

This can also be true of ourselves - leadership role or not.

We are often good at recognising our weaknesses, and sometimes they are indeed the very things that endear us to our friends and partners.  However, it is worth remembering that our positive skills have a flip side to them as well.

The person who is always compassionate - whose mantra is "As long as everyone is happy I'm happy" may not be able to make decisions (especially ones where someone will - necessarily - be upset.)  Don't forget that if your compassion means you are always trying to "save" someone or take away their pain, you are not empowering them.

The person who is independent and works to "do it myself" - may be missing out on collaborations that could bolster a good idea into something great, or can sometimes refuse help until the point where that choice is taken out of their hands.

The person who is always giving may begin to believe that they have to "buy" friendship as they alone are of no value.

All the thoughts and the ensuing behaviours on the flip side may become a barrier to forming healthy and equal partnerships.

Always be mindful that your good points, can have a "dark side" to them - and being aware of it will help keep you on course.

Try this:

1. List three of your best qualities that you recognise in yourself

2. Identify what their "dark side" may be

3. Outlines ways to mitigate this eg. if you are too compassionate, ask yourself "Am I really helping that person become independent?" before rushing in to help.

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt

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