GUT CHECK: Has Your Personal Success Become A Liability?

April 11, 2014 Vince Molinaro

Dylan had worked long and hard to achieve a promotion to the executive ranks. When he finally realized his dream, there were many messages of congratulations on LinkedIn, along with handshakes and high fives from colleagues.

This was Dylan’s moment in the sun.

However, not long after ascending the ranks, Dylan started to change. Normally a reserved person, Dylan began to demonstrate signs of arrogance. Others took notice of how he seemed to strut around the office. In everything he said and did, Dylan gave off an air superiority that confused and concerned the colleagues who knew him in his previous post.

Everyone agreed that the promotion had gone to Dylan’s head. Once that general impression was cemented, he had an important decision to make: continue strutting about and treating people poorly, or perform a reality check, and try to get back in touch with the guy who earned that promotion in the first place.

This is an old story in the leadership world. We’ve all experienced it; in ourselves, or others we’ve worked with. Success gets the better of you and it starts to become a liability.

A lot has been written in the field of leadership about how leaders deal with setbacks and failure. We all know that there’s a lot you can tell about a person by how they deal with adversity.

Yet, I’ve always found that a good way to measure the quality of a leader is by observing how he or she deals with success. In many ways, success is a more difficult challenge than adversity.

Failure is, in its many forms, a fairly simple equation. When you fail, you take a personal hit. Your ego is bruised. You may be forced to become humble (or at least you should). You evaluate where you went wrong. If you are a great leader, you’ll accept failure as a learning experience and ensure that you don’t make those mistakes again.

Success, on the other hand, is trickier. Success feeds ego. Left unchecked, this may grow into a sense of bravado. Maybe you start looking down on others, feeling pity for the mere mortals who have not risen to your station. Arrogance sets in. Hubris is not far behind.

These are the leaders who have completely, utterly bought into their own hype.

Great leaders know how to relish success. They celebrate it as a milestone. Take credit where credit is due. But they also make sure it doesn’t become a liability by keeping their ego in check.

This week’s gut check question is: Has your success become a liability?

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About the Author

Vince Molinaro

Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.

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GUT CHECK: Has Your Personal Success Become A Liability?
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