Being in a leadership position requires more agility than ever before. The economy is changing, and with it, CEOs, business owners, and executive teams must constantly adapt to stay ahead. But, a crucial part of adaptability and growth is self-awareness. How can you recognize potential roadblocks and weaknesses in your own behavior, and, more importantly, how can you correct them before they negatively impact your business, career, and the people around you?
At CANDOR, we refer to these behavioral patterns and roadblocks as HeadTrash – the thoughts and emotional patterns that hinder the ability to respond to business issues productively and professionally. Everyone has some type of HeadTrash, but by identifying your own HeadTrash, you can take action to correct the patterns that are holding you back from effectively leading your team and running your business.
Behind every successful business is a leader who makes smart decisions. Emotions and passions challenge our ability to make good choices and distract us from strategic decision-making.
Separating emotion from decision-making is not about becoming robotic or having radical candor. Making decisions is one of the hardest things you will do as a leader, and removing your emotions from the process allows you to make the objective decision that is in the best interest of your business and your team.
The common patterns of HeadTrash can be broken down into seven categories, ranging from outward emotions, such as anger or control, to inward emotions, such as insecurity and paranoia. Emotions are natural, and everyone will experience these seven types from time to time, but when an emotion crosses the line and impacts your ability to make smart decisions, it turns into HeadTrash.
While HeadTrash can feel overwhelmingly negative, there is good news – through self-awareness and practice, many thoughts and behavioral patterns associated with each type of HeadTrash can be transformed into positive actions and traits.
The basic survival instinct and impulse that prompted our cave-dwelling ancestors to flee. What could be more sensible than feeling fear when pondering a new hire, a new investment, or a big presentation? The stakes are high.
Extreme fear is a brick wall. It can render us incapable of taking action because we’re too worried about downsides. Nothing gets done. Fear of making decisions and having difficult conversations are the two most common manifestations of this HeadTrash in the workplace.
Truthfully, arrogance requires no formal definition because people who work with an arrogant leader have plenty of their own: Egomaniac, Know-It-All, Jerk. Often a mask for insecurity or defensiveness, there’s absolutely nothing admirable about arrogance. It has no redeeming qualities.
Arrogant leaders produce frustrated, compliant, and self-doubting employees.
Paranoid leaders genuinely believe that others are “out to get them” and live in a constant state of victimhood. They are obsessed with what others think of them and spend a lot of time managing their image. Examples of paranoia could be something as simple as an email that suspicious leaders perceive as being filled with veiled threats or a regular business meeting that suspicious leaders feel is a precursor to getting fired.
This perennial state of mistrust stands in the way of getting things done and is usually draining for the leader who scrambles to put their finger on every perceived leak. It also saps the people around them, who are running around with the hoses, attempting to extinguish the leader’s fictional fires.
This belief is a fallacy because one leader can’t do it all as the business grows. It’s impractical and unsustainable, and there’s no way to scale your business for growth.
Control triggers other types of HeadTrash (insecurity, paranoia, fear) in a leader’s colleagues. Employees may start to doubt themselves with limited opportunities to express their talents. “Why doesn’t my boss think I can handle this?” or “ There must be something I’m not doing right!” are all things that can start to creep into the minds of employees working under a controlling leader.
Passive aggressiveness and micro-management are two very common forms of the HeadTrash of Control.
Leaders need to express their observations to their employees. When the tone of your displeasure becomes antagonism or rage, anger becomes dysfunctional. A leader whose subordinates view them as hostile does the company more harm than good. An angry boss spreads fear and mistrust throughout the company.
The effect is damaging and lingering, causing the staff to stop giving their best or sharing their honest opinions. When one’s livelihood is at stake, it seems safer to start giving in to avoid “The Wrath from Above.”
For many, guilt is an evolutionary impulse, a vestige from our relationships with our parents and other authority figures. Guilt is a sentimental trap, a snare that hooks us into doing the wrong thing even when we think we’re acting out of kindness or benevolence. Guilt is a reflex, a feeling that arises from learned behavior and often encourages us to act against our best interests or the company’s best interests.
Leaders can be both guilt-ridden and guilt-inflicting in their behaviors toward others.
Most crippling of all the HeadTrash, insecurity is a constant and all-encompassing feeling of self-doubt. Whenever insecure leaders look in the mirror, literally or figuratively, they only see what is lacking. Whenever they need to make a difficult decision, the first things they hear are the voices of doubt. Insecure leaders have a story about how inept they are, and they work hard to make the rest of us believe their perceived truth, no matter the cost. They typically prevent others from growing, grab undeserved credit, engage in defensive behaviors, and tear others down to build themselves up.
Maybe one or two of these sound familiar, or perhaps you have experienced several categories of HeadTrash in yourself and those around you. All seven can play a part in your life, but it’s essential to identify and correct the primary HeadTrash that keeps you from moving forward.