Leadership is essentially about influence. Most everyone leads in some fashion. We may not all lead large organizations, but most people have influence in various areas of their lives—work, home, social life.

Great leaders have both character and competence. Competence is necessary, but, according to noted organizational psychologist and author of Derailed, Dr. Tim Irwin, “character trumps competence”.

According to Dr. Irwin, character failures are why so many leaders derail.  He cites leaders such as Tiger Woods, Tony Heyward, CEO of BP, Mark Hurd, CEO of HP, and Robert Nardelli, CEO of Home Depot. All of whom had high levels of competence and incredible influence over others, but through character flaws were derailed from their leadership positions.

According to Dr. Irwin’ book Derailed, there are Five Stages of Derailment:

1. Lack of self-awareness.
Leaders start to derail when they lack the ability to monitor their own behavior. They are unable to sense their own motives, thoughts, and feelings. They are not self-aware.

2. Arrogance.
Robert Nardelli, CEO of Home Depot, took a nine car parking space and had an elevator programmed to go directly to his personal office space on the top floor. He was selfish, arrogant, and dismissive of others.

3. Ignoring Warning Signals.
When leaders do not accept feedback, it is just a matter of time until they derail. Healthy leaders are coach-able and know how to benefit from the insight and feedback of others.

4. Rationalization.
This is where people lie to themselves. They tell themselves that they can never fail, that they are above the rules or above the law. They rationalize that they are so important they can do whatever they want.

5. Derailment.
This is where the leader loses their standing in some vital way.

To avoid derailment Dr. Irwin encourages leaders to continually develop and nurture the habits of being self-aware, being aware of others, and the habit of paying attention and listening to feedback.

Great advice whether you lead a family or a corporation.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Feel free to email me or visit my website.

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