The 5 Behaviors That Limit Success

People who struggle creating success for themselves usually engage in one of five limiting behaviors. Researchers Zenger and Folkman call these behaviors “fatal flaws” in their book The Extraordinary Leader. Their research found, “five patterns of behavior that consistently lead to a failure in leadership. Possessing one or more of these makes it virtually impossible for a person to be perceived as an effective leader.”

The only course of action with a fatal flaw is to fix it.

Some might be averse to fixing these flaws - they will say they aren’t leaders so leadership principles don’t apply to them. Leaders exist everywhere, and leadership is about each individual leaning into the best pieces of who they are in each moment. The founder of Activate Your Talent, Katie Christy, defines leadership as, “there is no one-size-fits-all approach, answer key or formula to leadership. Leadership should be the humble, authentic expression of your unique personality in pursuit of bettering whatever environment you are in.”

Each of us is a leader in our own right, and in order to express our unique personalities in their highest forms, we must grow past our fatal flaws. If we don’t, the best we can be is average.

The five fatal flaws are:

1. Inability to learn from mistakes.

Essentially, all leaders make the same number of mistakes. However, effective leaders use those mistakes as learning experiences while ineffective leaders hide mistakes and then worry about them, sometimes for years.

Zenger and Folkman believe this inability to learn from mistakes might be attributed to a leader’s failure to see current reality accurately or a failure to honestly analyze one’s own behavior. The same holds true on your personal development path. Even though Zenger and Folkman’s research uncovered five detrimental behavior patterns, this mistake is considered the single biggest cause of failure.

2. Lack of core interpersonal skills and competencies.

A lack of interpersonal skills and competencies limits an individual’s overall effectiveness. If you want to maximize your potential and optimize your performance, you have to have solid interpersonal skills and competencies.

This fatal flaw is easily remedied by reading one of the greatest books ever written on interpersonal skills and putting the tips from the book into practice: How To Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. His book offers practical tips and advice on how to improve interpersonal skills such as “begin with praise and honest appreciation,” “call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly,” ask questions instead of giving direct orders” and “let the other person save face.” Follow his guidance and this fatal flaw won’t be an issue for you.

3. Lack of openness to new or different ideas.

Leaders who lack openness to new or different ideas will always do things the same way. That is the way they have always done them and that is the way they will keep doing them for no other reason.

One of my sons attended a school that loved to use the “but we’ve always done it that way” excuse. It drove me batty. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t make it right.

Leaders who have this profile also tend to be close-minded when it comes to new ideas. To overcome this flaw, ask your team members or family members and friends for their ideas and hear them out. When trying to solve a challenge, ask this simple question, “What am I missing?” Work to be open-minded and try new things.

4. Lack of accountability.

You have to take responsibility for yourself. Be it good or bad, you must be accountable for your performance. The best way to begin holding yourself accountable is by asking this question of yourself: “How did my behavior contribute to where we are?” Then make different decisions and act more like the leader you are.

5. Lack of initiative.

Finally, you must have initiative. It is a roadblock to be passive and wait for things to happen in order to respond. If you are concerned that you engage in this fatal flaw, begin to ask yourself “How can I step up here?” or “What more can I do?”

All of us engage in these fatal flaws once in a while. That is not a problem. When these behaviors are regular patterns, however, that is a problem. Fatal flaws almost guarantee your inability to maximize your potential. If you want to better whatever environment you are in, any fatal flaws must be addressed.

To learn more about Dr. Tomi Bryan, her work or to schedule a coaching session, visit

6/4/2018 7:00:00 AM
Dr. Tomi Bryan
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Dr. Tomi Bryan, a System Dynamics Expert, helps high achievers find their next gear. Discover the champion within! Schedule a coaching session with Dr. Bryan at website below or connect with Dr. Bryan via Linkedin, twitter (@champdyn) or facebook (Championship Dynamics).
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