This is a follow-up post to my earlier post, The 3 Most Common Downfalls of Leaders. Today, I show you how to avoid those downfalls. Avoiding the three most common downfalls of leaders is not difficult, but requires intentional effort.

Leadership downfall
To avoid a leadership downfall, first get feedback. Then, develop an action plan and follow it. (Tweet That)

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Without further ado, here is how you avoid each of the three most common leadership downfalls:

Get constant feedback. 

I’ve written a lot about leaders getting feedback from others and I suggest you read those posts. Most of what I write comes from my own experience getting feedback. The short version, if you don’t read those posts is that I was completely naïve to my failings as a leader. I was headed for a downfall and didn’t know it…until I got feedback.

Knowing, as they so often repeated on the show, G.I. Joe, was half the battle. That allowed me to see my failings from the eyes of those most impacted by them, my team. It was only then that I could put an action plan in place to fix the problems. I was done with half the battle, but the road ahead wasn’t easy.

So once you have feedback, what’s next to avoid the three common downfalls of leaders?

1. Fear-based leadership


This goes beyond the cliché of “servant leadership.” To avoid being a fear-based leader, you must invest tons of time in your team. You need to have one-on-one meetings with them, make them feel valued, coach them, and find ways to serve them above and beyond a paycheck.

Fear-based leaders use their position of authority to frighten their team members into doing what they want. Great leaders help their team members to see the value in doing excellent work.

When Your Team Says You Suck - How to Get, Give, and Use Feedback for Leaders
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To avoid being a fear-based leader, keep yourself in check. If the feedback shows that your team is intimidated by you, develop an action plan to get on more friendly terms with them. Open the lines of communication and actually listen to them. Stop using threats of firing, demotion, or pay cuts as a means to an end. Motivate them to achieve in other, more creative ways.

2. Money

Put principles first.

You may have heard it a thousand times, but I will repeat it here: The most common character trait among great leaders and millionaires is fanatical integrity.

If the feedback shows that you care more about your personal finances than your team’s well-being, the customers, or even the interests of the company, you need some time off from thinking about money at all. Start prioritizing others first. I’m not saying you need to spend the next twenty years not considering your personal interests at all, but for the time being, eliminate it entirely as a consideration. Put principles first.

If you own the company, put your team and customers first. If you work for a company, include their interests as well.

The best way to do this is to include them in your decision-making. A solitary leader will too often fail to see others’ views. As hard as you may try, you will eventually slip into self-centric thinking. When you include others (team members, customers, and those above you) you will get all points of view and make it much easier to base your decisions on what is best for everyone else.

3. Ego

Be humble.

OK, done. That’s it. I could be a pastor. Just tell people to “be humble” and then assume that if you try hard enough, you should have that mastered by next Friday.

The truth is, I don’t know what else to suggest here to truly rid you of ego-based leadership. But I do have some tips to help you over time and they all go from the outside-in.

Here are 8 ways to rid yourself of ego. This isn’t about heart change, it’s about showing some level of humility.

  • Give credit to others. 
  • Give others the spotlight.
  • Don’t sit at the head of the table.
  • Let others lead meetings.
  • Talk less than you listen. (If it helps, keep a timer, seriously)
  • Open the floor to others’ ideas. 
  • Stop using “I” in reference to team projects. (“I am working on” becomes “We are working on”)
  • Stop using “my” and “mine” in reference to your team, products, or company. Use “our” and “ours.”
  • _________ (What would you add here? Answer below in the comments)

None of those magically make a person humble. But they are the right behaviors. Over time, I believe they will help leaders to be more humble.

To recap, first get feedback. Then, develop an action plan and follow it.

What tips do you have to help leaders avoid these common downfalls?


Text me anytime at (260) 217-4619.

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11 thoughts on “How to Avoid The 3 Most Common Downfalls of Leaders | Ego, Fear, Money

  1. Let's Grow Leaders says:

    Beautiful. Building confident, humility.

  2. Laura Johnson says:

    I’ve heard humility described as… not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
    Basically, move your focus from yourself to others. And I think your tips definitely portray that. Great post 🙂

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      So true. I’ve heard that too. And though, these don’t necessarily require that, they at least show an effort to.

  3. Think adaptively vs. just focusing on technical issues.

  4. LadyMcKermit says:

    Look for real solutions, not a bandaid to address the problem.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Agreed, but band-aids are quite useful sometimes. They help stop the bleeding and prevent the problem from getting worse (infection). Sometimes you one to settle down and start from there.

  5. Zech Newman says:

    With Humility I would add recognition of your own self-worth. I struggled for years with self-hatred so I would have to knock everyone down lower then me. Until I really grabbed ahold of this I could not serve my team like they deserved.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is a great point Zech. Those who think too lowly of themselves often try to drag others down to their level. It’s why I don’t mind having a few semi-cocky friends around 🙂

  6. LadyMcKermit says:

    Perhaps I should have said, don’t be content with a bandaid solution. Use the bandaid but look for the deeper answer.

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