Overcoming self-deception in leadership

What derails many successful leaders?

 Successful leaders are leaders who embrace the three C’s of leadership: competence, character, and credibility.  All three are necessary to sustain influence and continually provide the spark that keeps an organization headed in the right direction.

 However, upon achieving success, many leaders get derailed from the 3 C’s and begin the process of losing influence and credibility with those they lead.  What causes this erosion?

There are several factors that can lead to the reduced trust and influence of a leader.  One of the most prominent reasons is the loss of transparency.  When people follow a leader they believe the leader communicates with them in an authentic fashion.  They understand what the leader communicates, and feel that the leader is passionate about the goal.  They may or may not agree with their ideas but nonetheless believe that the leader can be trusted.

 However, as many leaders become more successful, they experience an increased sense of self-importance and power over others, which become more important than honesty and authenticity.   This is self-deception.  They begin to become comfortable with power and actively seek it.  The corrupting influence of power makes authenticity and openness difficult to maintain.  The result is the decline of transparency and along with it, the leader’s credibility.  An infamous example such a leader was Napoleon Bonaparte.

 For example, I was once a meeting with a leader who shared their vision with the group.  It was inspiring, and delivered in an authentic way.   I committed to it, as did many others.  After struggling to achieve the vision, the leader no longer believed it achievable so the vision was changed.   The group was not informed of the change or the reason for it until the change was well underway.  There was no transparency.  The result was lost credibility and influence.

 One way to prevent this self-deception in leadership and loss of transparency is to embrace humility.  Real humility is humility that comes from the heart and not the false that comes from the head.  A modest belief in one’s own rank or importance is vital to counteract the debilitating effects of accrued leadership power.