Driven Leaders Pose Particular Challenges
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Most corporate cultures place a high value on accomplishment and productivity, which explains why so many driven leaders rise to executive positions. The business landscape is filled with leaders who, while bent on achieving success, present challenges for the people who work for them.

While driven leaders can claim credit for myriad workplace advancement, their obsession with tasks and goals contributes to employee dissatisfaction and disengagement.

If you report to a compulsive  leader, you likely experience mixed feelings over completing great work vs. bearing the pain that comes with it.

Are You Compulsively Driven?

Compulsive leaders are appreciated from the top echelons, but not as much from the bottom ones. They expect their people to be as efficient and goal-oriented as they are. Unfortunately, it’s not a realistic expectation.

Leaders with compulsive tendencies focus on tasks, checklists and goals to produce the fastest and best results, win battles, maximize success and gain favor. Their insistence on hard work and achievement overshadows people’s needs, suggests Beatrice Chestnut, PhD, in The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, 2017).

The Pros and Cons of Compulsiveness

Though the compulsive mindset is hard to deal with, there are some beneficial aspects of this type of leadership style. The compulsive leader:

  • Accomplishes goals and achieves results
  • Brings a spirit of excellence to the workplace
  • Runs a tight ship and knows what’s going on
  • Is dedicated to people who do good work
  • Inspires dedication and teamwork

But the fallout from adverse effects can far outweigh the positives. A compulsive leader:

  • Can be insensitive and rough on people
  • Is intolerant of mistakes or slow work
  • Often sets the bar unachievably high
  • Micromanages “underperformers” and shows favoritism to achievers
  • Can’t deal with failure and doesn’t learn from it
  • Can overwork into exhaustion and suffer from bad judgment
  • Lacks humility and openness to vulnerabilities
  • Has a one-track mind that can reject others’ input
  • Causes dissention and disunity, stemming from a lack of people skills

These negatives can clearly put an organization in a poor position for long-term success. Coaches can help leaders take healthier approaches to success without the collateral damage to the workforce.

The Signs of a Driven Leader

High energy and dedication to long hours without complaint are common in compulsive leaders. Their emphasis on results is reflected in their speech and decisions. They are bottom-line people, often cutting off others to get to the main point. They take the direct and ultra-efficient approach. They refer to their accomplishments as a matter of habit and continuously cite their goals.

Compulsive leaders are obsessed with speed. Productivity looms large in their interactions, with tasks and checklists overriding feelings or emotions. They seek the upper hand and search for ways to win. Unable to sit still, they make every minute count.

Slow people, inefficient meetings and unnecessary explanations frustrates compulsive leaders. They are more concerned about averting delays than how their behavior affects those around them. They outwardly enjoy being in charge and having things done their way.

The Driven Mindset

Understanding compulsive leaders’ perspectives and motivations can help them transition to healthier behavior.

Compulsive leaders believe only hard work and achieving their goals will bring them personal fulfillment. Failures are downplayed or denied.

Emotions, they believe, get in the way and slow things down. They’ll do their best to ignore them. Keeping things superficial—tasks, duties, goals and appearances—is more manageable.

Blind Spots

Compulsiveness can be viewed as emphatic behavior driven by an intense internal focus. Thus, they are unaware of the personal difficulties they cause their people.

When employees’ feelings or needs go unaddressed, morale, engagement and unity suffer heavy blows. Consequently, work quality suffers, thereby fostering further unfortunate leadership responses. This downward spiral feeds upon itself, and driven leaders blame their employees.

A coach can help steer compulsive leaders away from damaging habits and toward healthier ones by posing some introspective questions:

  • Can you get in touch with your feelings? Why not?
  • Do you believe your people have no feelings?
  • How do you think people respond when their feelings go unaddressed? What does the eventual outcome look like?
  • How is a person’s true value determined? Is it task related?
  • What would happen if you slowed down? What’s the likelihood of this result?
  • What’s so devastating about failure? Can anything be learned from it?
  • Are you ever concerned about burning out? How could burnout affect your leadership abilities?
  • How has striving for recognition helped you?
  • What signs would indicate your people don’t trust you? Would it bother you to miss these signs?

Working through these issues and reframing their mindset can help compulsive leaders recognize trouble spots and potential remedies.

Counsel for Driven Leaders

It’s difficult for Driven leaders to identify with feelings (their own or others’). It’s also hard for them to step outside their own perspective. One effective approach involves training that focuses on relating to people.

Driven leaders must learn to value the power of engagement: the relational aspects of working together. Accepting the notion that their success depends on other people proves to be a great epiphany.

Other key steps can help leaders reduce their compulsive tendencies and reconsider their values:

  1. Assess what constitutes real self-worth. Is it what you can gain for yourself, or is there more value in making a lasting contribution by developing others?
  2. Get in touch with your emotions and become more self-aware to enhance your leadership impact on others and the world around you.
  3. Accept people and their traits. Learn to work on a more relational level, appreciating what they offer rather than fighting it.
  4. Embrace failure and learn from it. Failure can offer the best lessons for future success. It’s not nearly as fatal as you once believed. It’s normal.
  5. Step back and make note of the responses you see when you enact the previous steps. You are strengthening your workplace culture.

Working for a Driven Leader

Compulsiveness is a tough trait to manage. Staff can start by recognizing the compulsive personality’s fundamental traits.

Addressing a compulsive leader’s needs requires people to give their best. Accountability is critical. Compulsive leaders greatly appreciate employees who own up to mistakes and offer solutions to correct them.

Delivering needed information succinctly is important. Compulsive leader should not be pressed for a personal relationship. Leaders will respond to respect and appreciation, that doesn’t veer into sycophancy or manipulation.

As leaders work past their compulsive tendencies, tensions will ease and spirits will lift. Giving leaders positive feedback and thanks will enhance the transition even further.

Call upon a, trainer or management coach like myself to help you take healthier approaches to success without the collateral damage to your workplace. Your organization will benefit greatly—and so will you.

Feel free to pass this newsletter on to friends and acquaintances should you think they might benefit from it.

Call me today (949) 721-5732 to schedule a 30 minutes consultation.

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Call me today (949) 721-5732 to schedule a 30 minutes consultation.

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Moty Koppes is a certified master coach providing you with personal development, life coaching, relationship coaching, communication skills, personal power, life balance, career coaching, productivity enhancement, executive coaching and stress reduction in Newport Beach, Orange County, Southern California.