Five Ways Promising Leaders Derail Their Careers

1. Betray Personal Trust

As a leader, you will find opportunities to create and strengthen relationships with your direct reports or peers. Sometimes this dynamic occurs when they deliberately or inadvertently share private details. The gradual disclosure of increasingly personal information is a great way to build trust. However, if you use that information to further your causes at the expense of others, you betray an implicit compact. You may try to justify your actions and say they should not have shared so much of their private information, thoughts, or fears with you. Perhaps they did overshare; that does not exempt you from your judgment. They trusted you with information, and you did not take that trust seriously. That will always harm you.

2. Selfish Overt Ambition and Arrogance

Ambition is good, far better than its’ opposite, apathy, and indifference. Similarly, a little cockiness is fine, maybe even justified. However, do not blatantly step on people so you can scramble up an imaginary ladder of success. When you complain about others who are in your way, you will eventually topple over with a resounding thud.

3. 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 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 while, but eventually, it will run you off your success track.

4. An Insensitive, Intimidating, or Bullying Style

Despite widespread claims, there is a way to succeed without employing abrasive tactics. People often misinterpret these characteristics as strengths because the reality is that they do produce short-term results. If you feel stuck in a quagmire and see someone get results using these methods, it is easy to exalt them as a white night. Unfortunately, the problem is that besides being lazy and fostering discontent, fear, and loathing, it is also fake strength trying to disguise weakness — a profoundly self-limiting behavior. Fortunately, many people have learned how to easily recognize these trite tactics, attributes, and failings and rightly call them out sooner before they cause too much destruction. The abrasive way may be an express train, but if you ride it, the only thing assured is falling off the rails at a faster speed.

5. Vacillation Between Extremes of Over and Under Management

A prevalent problem with new managers, in particular, is wanting to be everyone’s buddy when they first start, so they take a lenient, hands-off approach. Perhaps they were the one friend 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 required results, fear and desperation force 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 entire delegation, and leaders who do not know where, when, and how to use them invariably screw up.

Some of these common errors are forgivable, provided you bounce back with humility and correct your ways. It’s far easier, and you’ll enjoy your leadership journey more if you make an effort to avoid them in the first place.

Raise Your Standards

Anyone who devalues you, your ambitions, contributions, or talents has no place in your life. Raise your standards and minimize their influence on you.

Lousy leaders tend to treat you like they’re doing you a favor. They belittle your ambitions, barely recognize your contributions, and ignore your talents. Sometimes friends and loved ones do this too, protecting their interests, not promoting yours.

Those who do this successfully have too much leverage over you; financial, psychological, emotional, physical, and they use it to extract compliance from you.

Sometimes you’re stuck. Endure what you must.

While they are abusing their power, stop letting them rob you of yours. Make it a primary goal to realign the dynamic. Detach from them and trade up to those who celebrate, challenge, educate, and honor you and your unique abilities.

Never stop doing this.

15 Questions

How well do you know your organization? Find out by answering the 15 questions posed by Leadership Consultant Karl Bimshas. A crucial and perhaps humbling exercise for business owners and leaders of any organization. =>

Accountability Partnering

  • Stay focused
  • Stop procrastinating
  • Reduce time sucks
  • Cheer progress
  • Reach your weekly goals.

Karl Bimshas Consulting’s popular Accountability Partnering for busy professionals. Learn more at

Leadership Workbooks

Enhance your leadership development and accountability for yourself — and your team! Leadership Workbooks are a series of short and profound workbooks created by Karl Bimshas Consulting to help busy professionals manage better and lead well. Enhance your leadership development today at

Improve Your Leadership with Karl Bimshas Consulting

Conquer imposter syndrome and become a confident, competent leader in your field without becoming a jerk. Contact the Boston-bred and California-chilled leadership advisor, author, and owner of Karl Bimshas Consulting. Learn More



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Karl Bimshas

Karl Bimshas

Boston-bred and California-chilled Leadership Adviser | Writer | Podcast Host who helps busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well.