How to Avoid Leadership Drift

Business is an active, demanding endeavor. Only those who consistently apply themselves succeed. Organizations that thrive require leaders who actively dream, plan, engage, solve, pursue and network. It’s a lot of work, and there is no finish line.

But no one can keep up the pace indefinitely.  Every leader experiences profound peaks and valleys, seasons of being on track or feeling lost. This can be repeated throughout the career of even the most seasoned executives.

Organizations flourish when their leaders are in sync and on their game, and they flounder when their leaders drift off course. Many leaders find themselves off the path because they have gradually, unnoticeably, drifted there.

Leadership drift is increasingly responsible for management failure and turnover. Many leaders face forceful influences and events that can cause personal, detrimental changes, which diminish their organizational influence and reputation. Without discernment and internal awareness, external factors can cause damage that isn’t recognized until it is severe.

Leaders benefit by applying a dual strategy:  addressing the external factors to minimize their impact, and handling their responses to such factors, overcoming the personal issues that can lead to drifting. Most find the second to be much more difficult.

All leaders experience drift at some point in their careers, some of it minor and recoverable, some significant and troubling. The greatest danger is failing to recognize it and taking steps to reverse it.  Prolonging a short stretch of drift can render it irreversible, leading to career and team failures.

When this topic comes up with my coaching clients, we discuss the concrete steps leaders can take to prevent irrevocable consequences. However, since drift is primarily an unconscious issue, leaders generally need a second set of eyes to recognize it and bring it to the forefront. Even when recognized, drift is a critical topic best mitigated through the helpful resources of a qualified leadership coach.

What do you think?  Have you recognized and experienced your own leadership drift?  If so, how did you get back on the path?  Have you learned to recognize when you drift?  I’d love to learn of your experiences. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.

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