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7 Traits To Identify And Avoid Leadership Derailers To Maximize Success

7 Traits To Identify And Avoid Leadership Derailers To Maximize Success

Derailment takes place when one takes their eye off the goal

Emotionally intelligent leaders with high impulse control are able to tolerate the urge to jump to a reaction

A leader with high problem-solving awareness is one who charts out a course of action

Our lives are shaped by our immediate surroundings as well as many variables that can affect it in different ways – be it people, specific situations or events. Ultimately, it is these variables that influence your mindset and the decisions you take to reach a viable solution. These are the drivers of leadership success.

However, that is only a piece of the bigger puzzle. What emerging leaders most often forget to acknowledge is that, in addition to these drivers, you must be aware of what the significant derailers are, too. These are behaviours that can present hurdles in your journey, negatively affecting progress, and, ultimately, your quest for success.

Derailers are the behavioural tendencies you naturally gravitate towards when faced with difficult situations. Derailment takes place when one takes their eye off the goal, and, instead, lets the fears linked to the consequences fill that space – therefore resulting in the inability to perform optimally. An emotionally intelligent leadership journey is one in which you strike the right balance between acknowledging the drivers of success and the derailers.

Taking a cue from what General Norman Schwarzkopf, one the best-known US Army Commander said, “The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.

Even if derailers are easy to identify, only those who can learn to practice – and eventually control – them will be able to attain leadership success. What is needed is a conscious shift in mindset and self-awareness, which enables you to identify and acknowledge derailing behaviours.

You need to approach derailers with caution, evaluate them, and eventually learn to take them by the reigns in order to navigate them to your advantage. When you master this, it leads to a higher emotional quotient that is necessary to achieve leadership excellence.

Major Derailers That Can Hinder Leadership Success

Impulse Control

There is a reason why we are told to think before we speak, or act. This is because, often, especially in tough situations, we get carried away and have an instant reaction which may be rash or unreasonable. Mostly our impulses are what fuel these instant reactions. The defining line between those leaders with good impulse control as opposed to those who lack it is that the former responds while the latter reacts.

Emotionally intelligent leaders with high impulse control are able to tolerate the urge to jump to a reaction. Instead, they will take a step back, evaluate the situation, and respond appropriately. Leaders who exercise low impulse control are most often those who aren’t self-aware of the trigger that leads to these emotions. This makes them vulnerable to stress, which may also trickle down to the teams they are managing.


Problems, whether personal or interpersonal, are a part of every sphere of life. At the workplace, it is often the leader’s responsibility to solve them at the team-level and what makes it more complex is that human emotions are almost always involved. What matters, here, is the amount of effort you put into weighing multiple alternatives to the problem and replacing those problems with sustainable solutions.

A leader with high problem-solving awareness is one who charts out a course of action, with greater emphasis on the solutions that can be implemented rather than the problems themselves. Moreover, optimism and effective problem-solving go hand-in-hand. Therefore, an optimistic leader will most often find that they can reach effective solutions with ease, simply because the solution is their focal point.


We are faced with dynamic scenarios almost every day. In order to be able to deal with them, we must be flexible enough to adapt and adjust to the people and situations we are involved with. Especially as a leader, if you resist the change or don’t engage with it proactively, you risk being left behind.

People will always appreciate a leader who encourages new ideas and approaches from their team, rather than one who is rigid with their practices and methods.

This is what will help the team grow, and knowing that the leader listens to them and supports them in these efforts makes all the difference. The key to flexibility lies in listening to others, which, in turn, opens your mind to a plethora of ideas.

To get these leadership derailers in control, in addition to self-awareness and emotional intelligence, it is empathy that plays one of the most important roles. Leaders must imbibe the 4 A’s of Awareness, Acceptance, Authenticity, and Affability, to shape the right mindset.


Learn to differentiate between your current reality and your perceived reality. You must evaluate which of your beliefs can come in the way of your growth and work towards changing them. Additionally, be aware of how, when and where your contribution is needed within your current environment.


As a leader, you must accept reality and take responsibility to make changes that will help you and your teams move forward. Crush any false assumptions, and focus your efforts towards the task at hand. Using information and knowledge that is relevant to the current situation will help you perform and lead optimally.


When one presents a false picture of themselves, not only is it detrimental to the fulfilment of the objectives you set out for your team, but it also leads to internal conflict. Instead, you should focus on your strengths and figure out how to fill the other gaps, whether it’s through practice or collaboration with other members. Even as a leader, you’re allowed to be human, so leave room for error, but always be authentic with what you put forth.


You will always work better with those who you get along with at the workplace. As a leader, this is even more important. Developing strong interpersonal skills will help you collaborate with ease and gain the trust of your teams as well as others who are connected to you at work.

There is no ‘correct’ way to achieve self-awareness and emotional intelligence, you must experiment and see what the right mix constitutes for you. It will broaden your perspective as a leader and help you create an enabling, positive environment for your teams as well.

Practising these will eventually enable you to naturally move towards the desired behaviour and responses in particular settings, until you can finally master the derailer – or possibly convert it into a driver of success, instead.

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.