The Achiever’s Trap in Leadership Growth and How to Avoid It

Self-Centered VS. Selfish

The thing that keeps most leaders stuck and from getting to the next level is not the absence of skill.

The challenge that I noticed, and I noticed this directly in my own life, that the thing that was holding me back the most was not an absence of skill, but the presence of self-centeredness.

Not to be confused with selfishness. Self-centeredness doesn’t mean I’m taking advantage of other people.

Self-centeredness means that I am the center of the world around me and that things revolve around me.

And to the extent that my life is difficult, and that focus prevents me from operating in my highest capacity as a leader because I am allowing and expecting, either consciously or subconsciously, the world to revolve around me.

But the influential leader rises above that.

I don’t expect the world to revolve around me to make my life easier.

Influential leaders realize that it is their job to make the world better for other people.

It is a big step.

And that if I am complaining about how difficult things are for me, it is because of natural self-centeredness which is the natural design of the human body and the human brain.

Our brains are not programmed for success. Our brains are programmed for survival. Survival is about doing whatever it takes to keep myself alive. 

But leadership is different. 

Leadership is not about serving me. Leadership is about serving those people around me. 

If I am complaining, distraught, or bemoaning about how difficult things have become for me, it is the absolute, obvious sign of self-centeredness because, truly, the influential leader isn’t concerned about making things easier for themselves, only about making things easier for those around them.

And for a while, I used to think there was something wrong with me that I had this self-centeredness and that maybe I’m just not cut out for leadership.

Leadership Growth

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What I realized is that this self-centeredness is a natural step in a leader’s journey.  We are referring it to as the achiever’s trap because that is how healthy achievement starts.

Think about the newest people in your organization that you’re recruiting.

We must first teach them how to think bigger, how to dream bigger, how to realize that financial freedom is possible, and that time freedom is possible.

We must help people have bigger goals. We set bigger goals and then we must teach people that bigger goals are possible by learning to work harder.

We teach people how to work harder and we work harder. And as we work harder, guess what? We have better results.

As we have better results, we receive more praise and we become more capable which allows us to set bigger goals. This causes us to work harder which causes us to get better results.

And this is a success-centered approach that we follow.

Breaking the Cycle

The danger is that what starts as a healthy success-centered focus can quickly turn to an unhealthy self-centered focus.

To be successful requires focus which is a good thing.

I am focused. I am working hard but then what happens is that focus can quickly turn to overwhelm.

There is so much I must do. There are so many things that are broken. There are so many things that are wrong that I can’t keep up with at all.

And I become overwhelmed.

Once I’m overwhelmed, I start to get frustrated with myself, with the systems, with the people around me.

Then I start to resent things. I start to resent my environment. I start to resent my fellow leaders. I start to resent my technology. I start to resent my leaders beneath me for not doing enough. 

I start to resent new people who I must train because they don’t know what to do.

And what started as a healthy focus on being success-centered can become a trap of being self-centered.

Naturally, this is where we start but if we’re not careful, the healthy drive can quickly roll over into becoming this very frustrating, overwhelming cycle that we live into.

As we complain, no matter how hard we work, it never gets easier. I fixed one thing, another thing is broken and that’s what happens.

It often becomes a negative cycle that is hard to break free.

How about you? Which cycle are you in? The success-centered or the self-centered cycle? Let me know in the comments below!

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