The Seven Deadly Sins of Interpersonal Leadership

The other week I had some time to think driving between client meetings. Actually, I can tell I've been thinking - subconsciously - since I had a meeting with Bryce Hach. He took me out for a great lunch and discussion, and near the end of the meal posed the following question (more or less) to me:

"Chris, what do you find is the biggest problem leaders have? What trips them up? What gets in their way?"

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No-one's asked me that one before, yet I don't think I hesitated when I came back with:

"Leaders being unaware of their impact on others - and yet believing they know exactly what impact they are having."

I went on to share that, given this absence blindness (where you don't know what you don't know), leaders compound the problem by not seeking information on how their actions and behavior is impacting other people. Coupled with a society that generally defers to authority, followers rarely offer up the "career-limiting" feedback that leaders desperately need.

These same leaders - given the opportunity to get real, raw information about their impact - often go into some variation of denial. I've seen leaders get angry, shut down, or even simply get up and walk out of the room when followers shared their true feelings and perception of the leader's actions. 

(For what it's worth, in our work supporting leaders we provide feedback through assessments and confidential one-on-one conversations that allow the leader to go through the natural process of absorbing uncomfortable information in private, rather than dealing with it first-hand in public. Hearing a comment in a meeting after you're solidly grounded in reality typically results in the leader being able to respond positively rather than react negatively.)

So here are the Seven Deadly Sins of Interpersonal Leadership - in ascending order of impact. I'll be writing an article on each one of these over the next few months, and I'm happy to incorporate your favorite story of when you saw one or more of these - in other people, of course ;o)

7.    Focusing on what you believe you can control instead of what needs to be controlled.

6.    Misapplying your former center of power (expertise, experience, authority, etc.) in new situations.

5.    Oversimplifying, making assumptions, and jumping to conclusions about situations and intentions.

4.    Feeling the need to be “perfect,” and as a result overdriving yourself and others.

3.    Becoming overly focused on how a situation affects you and your influence.

2.    Seeing problems as “out there” and overlooking your own contribution to the issue.

1.    Being unaware of the real impact your actions have on others.

So which have you seen or experienced?

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Chris Hutchinson, CEO


Chris Hutchinson

As CEO of Trebuchet Group, Chris Hutchinson thrives working with clients and his team to improve organizational clarity, teamwork, and leadership impact.

After years of building Legos® and tree houses around the world, Chris earned his Mechanical Engineering degree and followed that with an MBA. His experiences in the military and the business world taught him great leadership can be learned, and everyone is in some way a leader.

Clients and peers describe him as an inspirational catalyst for positive change. He is the author of Ripple - A Field Manual for Leadership That Works.

Chris and his wife live, garden, and bike in Fort Collins, Colorado, and have four children. He has an unrequited love affair with brownies.