7 Deadly Virtues of Leadership

leadershipWe spend an awful lot of time worrying about when and how our vices are going to sneak up and bite us. We all know that despite our best effort those pesky character flaws will surface every once in a while to derail our efforts.

The one place in our lives we don’t expect trouble is from our strengths. However, the ruin caused by a wayward strength is often more devastating than what’s left in the wake of our weaknesses. We usually don’t see it coming and the damage is done before we realize how bad it is.

Here are seven virtues of leadership that when they go wrong, go very wrong:

1. Caring for people. This is the foundation of servant leadership, but even this basic virtue can be twisted. For example, there are times when “caring for people” might lead you to protect someone from suffering and struggles that are in their best interest. Sheltering them in this way–even if your intentions are good–doesn’t serve them.

2. Getting results. One of the hallmarks of a successful leader is whether she can make things happen. but when performance and production are pursued at all costs, then people and values get sidelined. Don’t lose sight of who you are in your drive toward success.

3. Creative thinking. Leaders are inherently creative. They see possibility, they craft vision, they solve problems and challenge our thinking. But undisciplined creativity can paralyze a leader and an organization. Every endeavor must have a what I call a GICOP (Good Idea Cut-Off Point). At some point you’ve got to stop brainstorming and get to work!

4. Rational thinking. Logic is the framework of the decisive mind. The ability to determine cause and effect relationships is critical to making good decisions. But if you lock yourself up in the halls of reason, you’ll miss the insight your intuition has to offer. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

5. Humor. Great leaders bring a lighthearted intensity to whatever they do. They never take themselves too seriously. But when leaders use humor selfishly, to guard and protect themselves, they put a wall up, separating themselves from their followers. Without an authentic connection, they’ll never achieve any real impact.

6. Confidence. People are drawn to confidence–especially in trying times. Bold leaders make them feel safe and cared for. However, it doesn’t take much for confidence to mutate into overconfidence. Believe in yourself too much and you’ll lead yourself and your team into disaster.

7. Humility. Nothing engenders trust in a human heart faster than humility. We’re drawn to what’s real. That’s what humility is: being yourself, nothing more, nothing less. But some leaders let humility slide into false humility and fail to bring their whole self to their service. As a result, they and their followers never seize the greatness that is in their grasp.

So it’s not so much our vices we need to worry about–most of us know what they are and will make some attempt to guard against them–it’s our virtues that, in the end, may well do us in.

Which of these virtues do you “suffer” from? How will you guard against taking them too far?

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