Five sadly common ways promising managers limit their potential.
Betraying Personal Trust
As a manager, you will find opportunities to create and strengthen the relationship with your direct reports or your peers. Sometimes this dynamic occurs when they deliberately or inadvertently share personal information. The gradual disclosure of increasingly intimate information is a great way of building trust among people. However, when you use that information to further your own causes at the expense of others, you betray an implicit compact. You can try to justify your actions and defensively say they should not have shared their personal information, their thoughts, or their fears with you. That is a situational call, and it may be true. They might have shared inappropriately. That does not exempt you from your judgment. You were trusted with information, and you did not take that trust seriously. That will always harm you.
Selfishly Overt Ambition and Arrogance
Ambition is good. It is far better than its’ opposite, apathy, and indifference. Similarly, sometimes a little cockiness is fine, maybe even justified, in small doses. However, if you are blatantly stepping on people so you can scramble up an imaginary ladder of success and find yourself complaining about the people that are in your way, you will eventually topple over.
Chronic Inability to Delegate or Build a Team
Nearly every occupation requires the help of others to be successful. If you cannot delegate tasks to those who could be more effective, efficient, or creative than you, or you do not have the skills to build and manage a team for a specific project, you severely limit your growth potential. Depending on your role, you can hide the deficiency for a little while, but eventually, it will run you off your success track.
An Insensitive, Abrasive, Intimidating, or Bullying Style
Despite popular claims, there is a way to be successful without employing these. Way too frequently we misinterpret these as strengths, because the reality is they do produce results. If you are stuck in a quagmire, seeing someone getting results by using these fallback positions, it is easy to exalt them as a white night. The problem, besides being lazy and fostering discontent, fear, and loathing, is that it is fake strength trying to disguise weakness. That is profoundly self-limiting behavior. Fortunately, a growing number of people now easily recognize these trite tactics, attributes, and failings, and rightly call it out. The abrasive way may be an express train, but if you ride it, the only thing you can be assured of is falling off the rails at a faster speed.
Vacillation Between Extremes of Over and Under Management
This is a prevalent problem with new managers in particular. When they first start, they often want to be everyone’s buddy, so they take a lenient, hands-off approach. Perhaps they were the one friend who was promoted from within the group, which can be awkward, so they want to assure everyone that they are still the same person. They are not. Now they are accountable and when they do not produce the results that are required, fear and desperation forces them to put the hammer down. They overcompensate and scrutinize everything. Alternatively, the reverse can happen when there is a mismatch, and the new manager arrives with a “there’s a new sheriff in town attitude” which frequently eviscerates a previously high-performing culture. There is a continuum of leadership styles from, direction to full delegation, and managers who do not know where, when, and how to use them, invariably screw up.