Let’s face it, as a leader most people are going to think that you have got your shit sorted. You know where you are going and you are headed there on the fast train. People want to follow you because you have vision and chutzpah.

Yet, you and I know differently. In truth, most leaders aren’t living up to anywhere near their potential…and they know it. Most people aren’t…and most people don’t see themselves as leaders.

There is no doubt that if you are a leader, with or without a title, you are getting stuff done in the world. It might even be pretty significant…but you know that there is so much more that you could be doing.

This is about IMPACT. Leaders want to create IMPACT and get somewhere. And most leaders that I have come across know they have way more potential to create impact than they are currently using.

So let’s look at what might get in your way as a leader…

Being way too busy

Most of us have way too much stuff to do and not enough time to get it done. You might spend the majority of your time fire-fighting or dealing with “stuff”. For leaders however this is the kiss of death.

Without fail, when I coach a leader, the first thing I make them do is block out a 2 hour chunk in the calendar each week for quality thinking time. Time to step back and look at the big picture. Time to re-prioritise. Time to gain clarity. The amount of pushback that I get is remarkable. That apparently is time when they “could be doing stuff”. Errrrrm.

Think of it this way. On a field of battle, a general would not be trying to direct the battle from the front line of fighting. It simply can’t be done. They need to step back and see the big picture. Leaders are no different.

Ever heard the term, “addicted to the rush”?

Not taking enough time out

Leaders are notorious for not taking quality recovery time. They tend to be as busy at home as they are at work and place themselves last on the list. Don’t get me wrong, there is often a lot of important stuff to attend to…but stress is a killer.

Busy-ness creates more busy-ness and most leaders don’t know how to just relax. It’s hardly surprising given the amount of adrenaline that they run on. However, to create impact you need to have energy and creativity. The first requires rest and recovery, the second requires space.

Stephen Covey was adamant that the seventh habit of Highly Effective Leaders is Sharpen the Saw. As a Leader, you simply must take time to look after yourself EVERY DAY or else you will get blunt and rusty.

Not taking good physical care of themselves

Related to the first two reasons, many leaders simply do not take the time to keep themselves in good condition physically. You can get away with that in your 20’s and maybe your 30’s. Any older though and you are fighting nature.

This was a mistake that I was making until recently, when I realised that I just didn’t have the physical energy that I needed to be able to do the things I wanted. I had to gotten to 250lbs and was horribly unfit. So, I have taken baby steps over the last few months to rectify this, have dropped 20lbs and started running.

To begin with, I have needed to make it as easy as possible and time efficient. I still have a long way to go…but take it from me, my sleep has improved dramatically, my stress levels are down, my mental functions are clearer and more efficient and I am more relaxed. More to the point, I am getting the energy to create the impact I want.

Not continually growing or doing themselves out of a job

Have you become a leader by virtue of your leadership capability or because you are really good at your day job? Many people are made leaders because they are technical specialists rather than leaders of people.

A great leader is someone that continually strives to grow to his or her edge. Eventually a job or a project will become too small an expression of who they are. So, they grow the people and skill sets around them so that eventually they do themselves out of a job.

However, many people in leadership positions take the expert role, seeing themselves as indispensable and not growing others to the extent they could. This might be driven by the need for security, control or that need to be needed. A leader who does this eventually stands still and becomes defined by the role rather than moving forward.

Not owning up to their challenges/weaknesses

I have written about the dirty little secrets that leaders have before, notably not wanting be found out, feeling like an impostor, not feeling good enough etc.

The problem is that hiding this stuff takes a huge amount of energy that could be put to much better use. You also end up pretending to be someone other than who you really are, which becomes demoralising and draining.

Admitting your challenges takes huge courage and vulnerability, but when you do you become more authentic and you give other people permission to do the same.

Not convinced? Take a look at the work of Brene Brown and I challenge you not to be moved.

Not listening to intuition

Leaders by definition have to have intuition and imagination. Leading is about creating something new that wasn’t there before. So, taking something unmanifested and making it manifest…so this isn’t about the purely logical and rational.

Many leaders do act on intuition/gut feel/instinct and every great stride forward that humankind has made is based on an intuitive leap. Remember Einstein dreaming about riding the ray of light? And yet, so many leaders minimise or doubt their intuition because it is not safe, logical and rational.

Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” So it is for many leaders.

Living in the zone of excellence

According to Gay Hendricks, every one has a Zone of Genius which is the highest and expression of who you are. You create impact as you are a genius when you live in that zone…and you are energised by it. You are living your best life and being your best self when you are in this zone.

However, too many leaders don’t spend time trying to uncover their Genius. They live in the Zone of Excellence. These might be things that you are really good at BUT there will always be someone better (they are in their Zone of Genius!) and it costs you energy.

If you are not sure why you need to take two hours out each week to think, THIS IS IT! Those two hours are when you think about what your Zone of Genius actually is and how can you spend more and more of your time living in it. It takes introspection (an alien concept to many) and feedback but this is the single biggest thing you can do as a leader to fulfill your potential.

[reminder]What stands in the way of your potential?[/reminder]

Image Credit: Lee_Salford/Flickr