Can leaders be blinded by their own success? You bet…While success is what all leaders strive for, unless you’re prepared to handle it, success can quickly complicate your life. Even worse, without the proper perspective success can actually contribute to the beginning of your downfall. So my question is this: Is your success serving as a springboard for even greater success, or is it merely a temporary state, precariously positioned and ready to implode with the slightest change in circumstance? As strange as it may sound, success can often times be the precursor to failure. Success without perspective, purpose, and focus can actually cause more harm than good. In today’s post I’ll discuss how CEOs, entrepreneurs and other leaders can either leverage success, or if they’re not careful, have it serve as a catalyst for a rapid downward spiral…
While not often discussed, nothing dulls the senses like a taste of success. A chance encounter with success can often lead to a feeling of being indestructible, which in turn can lead to arrogance, and the belief that success will itself breed success in any situation. Once a professional starts to believe their own rhetoric, trouble is not far behind. The reality is that past success, in and of itself, does not necessarily serve as an indicator of future success. In the text that follows I’ll pose some questions and put forth some thoughts that will help you navigate your own success…
Life is full of seemingly successful people who regularly fall from the ivory tower for no apparent reason. We’ve all witnessed the lottery winner who hit the big one only to have their new found wealth derail their life, as opposed to solve all their problems. We’ve seen the same thing with young politicians who dream of changing the world only to find themselves corrupted by their own ego once they arrive on Capital Hill. How about the professional athletes who sign multi-million dollar contracts out of school? They all too frequently end-up running with the wrong crowd only to find themselves out of the league only a few years later with nothing left to show for their success. And finally, how about the executive or entrepreneur who rises to the top, gets the title and the paycheck to go along with it, only to later run their company into the ground and eventually lose their position.
The key to leveraging success is self-awareness…are you straying from the formula that led to your initial success, or are you staying focused on playing to your strengths? Are you becoming casual in your approach to decisioning, or are you using your success to create an environment that leads to even better decisioning? As you’ve heard me say before, while it takes many great decisions to land in the C-suite, it only takes one bad decision to fall from grace.
What about talent management? There will be no shortage of gravy-trainers looking to ride the coat tails of your success. You can either surround yourself with people that will stroke your ego and tell you what you want to hear, or people that will tell you the truth. Show me a poor executive and I’ll show you an executive who 1) ignores the advice of staff; 2) acts in isolation by making decisions in a vacuum, or; 3) who surrounds him/herself with the proverbial “yes-men” in order to only receive the answers that will support their positions. The key is to not let your confidence get the better of your common sense…World class leaders make extensive use of mentors and aggressively seek out advice by making it safe for their staff and advisers to provide honest input and feedback.
Bottom line…Initial success can be a launch pad for future success, or the beginning of the end. In order to best manage success it is necessary to use the fruits of your success to surround yourself with best in class research, toolsets, in-house talent, and third party advisors. Consistently upgrade your knowledge base and improve your business practices such that you will become more efficient and effective. If you rest on your laurels you’ll likely find yourself on the outside looking in wondering what happened to the initial success you worked so hard to attain.
What say you?
Mike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“, and Managing Director of N2Growth.