My mission is “to help business leaders discover and achieve their potential.” One of the things that I discover is that many business leaders – more than half – limit their success because of inadequate attention to reflection and self-examination.

My clients would say that I’m not prone to make or accept excuses, and that my approach is rather direct. In that spirit:

If you believe, or even suspect, that your past or current success preordains future success, you are in deep trouble! The people I know who sustain enduring professional success are those who can balance their self-assured, rightfully-deserved confidence with a healthy dose of “Oh my God, what do I do next?” suspicion of their own success and potential – enough to keep themselves honest, reasonably objective, and appropriately paranoid.

As the Bard would say, “Herein lies the rub.” The greater your current success and the higher your perch, the greater the likelihood that you are headed for a fall because of the deceptions your mind feeds you. Some of those, as well as my responses, follow:

THE LIE – I am successful because I am intelligent, insightful and competent about all things. If the people who criticize me or volunteer feedback were as capable as I am, they’d be as successful as I am. They’re not, ergo…

THE TRUTH – You got where you are because of your assets and in spite of your liabilities. Additionally, attributes that may have comprised the strengths required for previous success may now be the liabilities keeping you from future success. An example: Your early success may have occurred because it required strong strategic and analytic skills, two of your personal strengths. You now run a more mature enterprise with a requirement for superior operating management. If the voice in your head provides rationale for sustaining a status quo that has outlived its usefulness, you and your company are headed for deep yogurt.

THE LIE – Every personal exchange, whether one-on-one or in larger meetings, must give everyone an “aha” moment. My comments must demonstrate that I am omniscient, that I have command of all of the relevant dimensions of the business, and that I am “the man.”

THE TRUTH – Get over yourself. First, in an executive chair, you get paid to ask great questions, not to have all of the answers. If you want to create a lasting, productive impression and do some real good, the next time you critique a presentation, instead of saying, “That’s wrong; do this,” ask, “What were the options you considered, and what motivated you to make the recommendation you did?” In lieu of saying, “Your recommendation doesn’t comport with our strategy,” ask, “How does your recommendation drive our strategic success?”

Second, when you have nothing of real value to add, don’t add it. Before making a comment, ask yourself, “Does what I intend to say contribute to fulfilling my conditions of satisfaction, the success and development of the other person/people, our customers’ satisfaction and our shareholders’ value?”

THE LIE – I’m in charge, the grand poobah, the main gazane, the great and powerful Oz. I can do whatever I want to! I’ve earned that right.

THE TRUTH – Exercising your prerogatives has nothing to do with creating organizational success. Over time, if you depend on the job title on your business card to move people to do what you want them to do, you are dead! If, however, you believe that enthusiastic, voluntary contribution is a better road to success than indentured servitude, you’ll take another route.

THE LIE – I know what people are thinking. I’m an “open” guy. My people know that they can come to me with any concern, issue or problem and that they’ll get an open hearing.

THE TRUTH – You do not know what others think or vice versa. You must create and exploit formal feedback mechanisms to get a valid, ongoing sense of what people are thinking. Employee surveys are great, but they’re inadequate. They don’t convey emotion; they don’t allow for probing; they don’t allow you to “peel the onion” to get an explicit sense of deep truth.

One CEO I know (and this is a guy who runs a Fortune 100) spends about 10 hours a month talking one-on-one with people at all levels of his company. At first, it made people uncomfortable. Now, they really get into it. He learned a couple of important lessons along the way. First, nothing beats nose-to-nose contact. Second, when you create a high level of openness, you inherit a responsibility for what you do (and even more importantly, don’t do) with what you learn.

THE LIE – People understand my motives; they’ll forgive my idiosyncratic behavior.

THE TRUTH – No they don’t, and no they won’t. It’s funny, but as early as age five, we have a good idea of the impact that other people’s behavior has on us. Most of us, however, never fully develop an appreciation for the impact that our behavior has on others. We assume that they know what we’re thinking, feeling and what our motives are.

Do you remember when you were in elementary school and ran into one of your teachers in the grocery store? Do you remember your reaction? Here’s a guess: You sheepishly said, “Hi, Mr. Smith.” What you were thinking, however, was, “What’s Mr. Smith doing here in the grocery store?” It was as if Mr. Smith, because of his lofty position as your teacher, should be above going grocery shopping.

Some things never change. When you hold a position of authority, you assume characteristics and attributes in people’s minds simply by virtue of your position. Whether you perceive that ought to be the case misses the point. If you are “the boss” (pardon me, Bruce), you are expected to conduct yourself with a level of virtue that exceeds that of mere mortals.

If you are a senior executive or aspire to be, you’ll be wise to be mindful of these pitfalls and to create processes to avoid them.

Copyright 2012 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit