It seems almost unfair to learn to be successful in your career by benefitting from other people’s mistakes.  That’s the beauty of the research Zenger and Folkman conducted for their book, “The Extraordinary Leader.” They reviewed 200,000 360-reviews of 20,000 different executives.  They found there was a group of critical characteristics that executives in the top 10% of those studied embodied. And, they found that executives failed if they didn’t exhibit just one of these five different flaws. You can learn from those who weren’t able to overcome these derailers.

  1. Inability to learn from mistakes. Everyone fails at one time or another.  Successful executives learn from their failure while others may try to cover them up and not take steps to address them because they are afraid of being found out.
  2. Lack of core interpersonal skills.  No matter how much business acumen, intelligence, and hard work some delivers, they can’t overcome a lack soft skills such as praising others, asking about others’ ideas/situation, and being cordial and courteous around others.
  3. Lack of openness to new or different ideas.  How many leaders have you run into who are threatened by new ideas?  An atmosphere where creativity and risk-taking are not supported and reward leads to complacency, “yes men”, and stagnation.
  4. Lack of accountability.  Not only may leaders not accept responsibility for their own work, but they may not assume responsibility for the performance of their work group or the organization.  Effective leaders are the opposite and look for ways to recognize and reward great performance and are buffers for their subordinates from outside criticism.
  5. Lack of initiative.  Effective leaders are always looking for what’s missing and now they can make a difference in the performance of their team.  They don’t wait around and be acted upon instead of the other way around.

The first step for someone committed to success is to have the self-awareness and openness to know if any or all of these are considered strengths or gaps.  There are always approaches and coaches that can assist in overcoming these issues as long as the individual is open to continuously developing themselves.