The One Trait that Will Destroy Your Leadership

AdVance Leadership » The One Trait that Will Destroy Your Leadership

Welcome to Friday 411, Issue #007. To succeed in leadership, you must maintain a solid foundation. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll secure an indispensable cornerstone that will prevent your leadership’s destruction.

1 Insight

Character is the foundation of leadershipCharacter development begins with the acceptance that you don’t see everything perfectly:

  • You have blind spots about your own life.
  • You don’t understand the motives and actions of others.
  • You have a distorted view of the world.

Accepting that you don’t see everything perfectly means accepting that you are wrong. A lot. Humility resides in this acceptance, arrogance in its denial.

In her TED Talk, Kathryn Schulz asks the audience, “What does it feel like when you are wrong?”

Audience members shout, “It’s awful! Terrible! Embarrassing!”

Schulz counters, “Those things are the correct response to a different question.” She explains, “You all were answering the question, What does it feel like when you realize that you’re wrong?”

In reality, when you’re wrong, it feels like being right because you have no idea that you’re wrong.

Let that sink in: Being wrong feels like being right. Which means that you feel right about everything you believe. You cannot trust your own intuition about whether you’re right or wrong. You’re drenched in self-deception. This is true for everyone: we are all delusional about our own fallibility.

Think about the last time you saw a post that you disagreed with on the news or social media. Did you think to yourself, Wow, that person has a good point. They are accurate in some of their assumptions, even though I disagree with them?

No way! Did you get frustrated with them for being so stupid? Did You accuse them of not having the correct facts? Or misinterpreting the facts? Or twisting the facts to fit their agenda?

You may have gotten angry with them for being wrong. Yet they believed they were 100% right. At least one of you is wrong about that topic. Chances are, both of you are not completely right.

In Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of ErrorKathryn Schulz writes,

“A whole lot of us go through life assuming that we are basically right, basically all the time, about basically everything: about our political and intellectual convictions, our religious and moral beliefs, our assessment of other people, our memories, our grasp of facts. As absurd as it sounds when we stop to think about it, our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient.” (emphasis added)

She goes on to explain that whenever you disagree with someone, you make one of three assumptions:

  1. The Ignorance Assumption

When you disagree with someone, you might assume they don’t have all the facts. Maybe they haven’t read as much as you or lack the right sources.

  1. The Idiocy Assumption

If you discover someone does have access to your same sources but thinks differently than you, you conclude they must be an idiot. They must not be very intelligent because of their obvious illogical reasoning skills.

  1. The Evil Assumption

What happens if you realize someone who thinks differently than you is intelligent? Then they must be evil. They’re entangled in some nefarious belief system that twists their intentions.

We believe that whenever you face your propensity to wrongness, you have two options:

  1. Become more arrogant.

Arrogance is the one trait that will destroy your leadership. Arrogance denies your mistakes or covers up your foibles. It diminishes others and makes them feel stupid while aggrandizing your intelligence.

  1. Humble Yourself.

Acknowledge to yourself and others that you aren’t right all the time, that you don’t always know when you’re wrong, and that you need other people.

How to Develop Humility

You can develop humility, but you cannot fake it. C.S. Lewis says, “A [person] is never so proud as when he is striking an attitude of humility.” Your goal should not be to “fake it until you make it.” Instead, implement humble practices into your life.

Five phrases that will help you develop and demonstrate humility with your team are:

  1. I don’t know.

Acknowledge to yourself and everyone else that you don’t have all the answers. In fact, one of your biggest leadership obstacles is that you don’t know what you don’t know. It takes humility to express your ignorance.

  1. I need your help.

You can’t do everything on your own. You don’t have the time, knowledge, or skills to do it all.

  1. I made a mistake.

Never try to hide that you made a mistake. That only diminishes trust. Instead, own the fact that you are wrong and fallible.

  1. Will you forgive me?

In leadership, you will hurt people. In fact, the more you lead, the more this will happen. Asking for forgiveness bridges the gap that’s formed when you wrong someone.

  1. You are important to me.

Your leadership wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the people who are following you. Let them know how much they mean to you.

1 Action

Choose one of the five phrases to practice humility this week.


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