Updated: Dec 18, 2022
"Common challenges that prevent you from achieving true leadership mastery" was the topic in a recent meet-up with experienced tech leaders.
Over the past years, while working with many individuals, leaders, entrepreneurs, and founders, I came across 10 typical challenges that prevent them from achieving true leadership mastery. So it would be helpful to discuss them here in my blog to raise awareness.
Why is it crucial to become aware of those challenges?
They have a tremendous effect on your personal and leadership growth. Once you become aware that this is a challenge for you, you'll be able to navigate your way through them, build resilience capacity, and over time, their impact will lessen.
These are 10 common challenges that prevent you from achieving leadership mastery:
1. Too much emphasis on your role and business results.
What does it mean?
Can't you focus on your role and business results?
Thinking about your role, responsibility, results, and goals is good, but it could become a massive problem if you're not emphasizing your own personal and leadership growth.
So you're not thinking about what you should do in the next two or three months as a foundation. And when I talk about foundation, it is about achieving a state of a high-performance mindset. See my recent video on "What is a High-Performance Mindset."
What's required to resolve this challenge?
First of all, become aware of it. Look through your calendar and go back to the past 3 weeks.
Have you only been focusing on your role, responsibilities, and deliverables?
How much balance is there for your personal things?
Did you have quality time with friends and family?
Once you realize that this is happening to you, there are creative ways and how you can deal with it. I share some ideas and the concept of “balanced focus” in this article. Another good article on “Work less, Achieve more” provides additional insights and ideas.
If you would like to explore this aspect in more depth: I created a short video “Too much emphasis on your role and business results”, which I encourage you to watch.
2. Not making yourself a priority.
It's a blind spot because people are unaware of this problem. They don't even think about it as a problem because it comes naturally: They think about others, friends, business partners, co-workers, and family; Everyone else around them in their world is important but themselves.
What's going to happen is that you put all your energy into helping others, chasing down your goals and your business results until there is no energy left for yourself!
And that is not a smart thing to do. Because you first have to think about yourself and take good care of yourself to help others in a much better way.
The root cause is usually a series or list of limiting thoughts and false beliefs that are ingrained in your subconscious mind. Our minds learn them as part of growing up by observing our parents, teachers, or others around us.
Again, the key is to become aware that this challenge is affecting you. Then it boils down to debugging the mind. There are so many techniques that are all rooted in neuroscience, and there's no right or wrong to do it. Learn more about it in my article about mind-management.
If you would like to explore this aspect in more depth: I created a short video “Not making yourself a priority”, which I encourage you to watch.
No matter how well-organized and committed you are, chances are that you are affected by procrastination.
Why do we procrastinate?
Usually, it is a combination of several limiting thoughts and false beliefs buried in your subconscious mind that prevent you from tackling certain problems or topics.
That's why the next step is identifying and figuring out these limiting thoughts and false beliefs that could cause this type of procrastination that you're facing. You can do this by doing some reflection.
But sometimes, there's more work needed to really drill down. Thus working with a coach or mentor to drill into some of these topics could be helpful.
There are many techniques to weed out these limiting thoughts and false beliefs. Try them out and see which one you prefer.
If you would like to explore this aspect in more depth: I created a short video “Procrastination”, which I encourage you to watch.
4. Lack of clear strategy for your personal & leadership approach (no OKRs) and not using a data-driven approach - no feedback loop.
If you're a leader or a business owner, you are most probably familiar with the OKRs framework of setting objectives and corresponding key results. There are always OKRs for the business for the organization. Otherwise, you wouldn't be able to reach your goals.
I realized that many tech leaders I have coached lack a clear strategy for their personnel and leadership growth; they didn't have OKRs to reach the high-performance mind.
Let's say the objective is to decrease stress levels.
But where are the key results?
How do you know how stressed you are?
What is your current stress level, and over what timeframe?
Without clear OKRs and KPIs - without a data-driven approach - it's just a guessing game. You wouldn't get the feedback loop to help you see changes and get results.
If you're interested to learn more about personal OKRs and what KPIs to look for, how to assess them, and how to create a baseline, don't hesitate to contact me.
If you would like to explore this aspect in more depth: I created a short video “Lack of a clear strategy … ”, which I encourage you to watch.
5. Not taking any action - "information snacking."
Have you heard the term "information snacking" before?
People who snack on information are interested in learning some stuff, but they're only skimming the general idea of the information rather than absorbing it.
Let's say you just heard about mindfulness. A "snacker" would taste a little bit of what mindfulness is, but they're not actually want to do some real action to go deeper there.
Why is it a problem?
If you want to upgrade your mind and body and cultivate more awareness to achieve a high-performance mindset, there's no free lunch; there's work to do.
Yes, there is actually work!
Let's say you read about meditation or mindfulness and listened to all these videos. Now it's time to take action.
You can download one of these meditation apps and do an unguided (or guided) meditation session. It could only be 2 minutes, but that would be an example of a concrete step of taking action instead of just reading about meditation; you are taking action.
If you would like to explore this aspect in more depth: I created a short video “Not taking any action - Information snacking”, which I encourage you to watch.
6. Strong monkey mind: Making up many excuses why it will not work, and it is not needed.
A monkey mind is a form of an untrained mind, like a little monkey bouncing around back and forth.
Your mind is very busy, with many thoughts, and you can't turn them off even when you come home in the evening.
If the monkey mind is powerful, that could be a challenge preventing you from achieving true leadership mastery. You'll find excuses why certain things will not work or why certain things are not needed.
Sometimes when I talk with potential clients, they are interested at first, but after they reflect, they think, "Oh, you know what? I don't need to work on training my mind currently."
Is it really true?
Can you absolutely, 100%, be sure that this is true?
Or is it your mind playing tricks on you and making up stories?
If that is also the case for you, I encourage you to go deeper, reflect, and see whether these excuses are true or if there are just stories you made up to protect yourself from failing.
In my experience those who claim they don’t need mind-management or mindfulness, they are the ones who benefit from it most!
The ego likes to protect itself from failing.
Sure, the risk is there, whatever it is, but there is also a big opportunity.
So go in there, become aware of these excuses that your mind is telling you, and possibly write them down, analyze them, and reflect.
It’s very important to do this in written form. The process of writing helps to increase your level of clarity. That's also a good way to get started on this and become more critical of your own thinking.
If you would like to explore this aspect in more depth: I created a short video “Strong monkey mind … ”, which I encourage you to watch.
7. Driven by the intellectual egoic mind.
Intellect is overrated.
Let me put some perspective here on why I think about it this way:
I'm not against using the mind, the brain.
It's such a wonderful device, so to speak, that can spark completely new ideas, new projects, and a lot of reasoning and help us with problem-solving.
However, if your LPA (Level of Present Awareness) is low and very limited, let's say less than 5%, this intellect can become quite unhelpful because everything, what the mind is trying to do, is based on rehashing stuff from the past or contemplating possible scenarios of the future.
And at the end of the day, the mind is only taking facts and concepts that it is aware of and trying to put them together. It lacks a deeper dimension, especially when it comes to the quality of decision making.
If you would like to explore this aspect in more depth: I created a short video “Intellect is overrated ”, which I encourage you to watch.
8. Lack of focus - easily distracted.
A lack of focus can prevent you from achieving anything meaningful in life.
If you cannot concentrate, you can't think clearly, focus on a task, or maintain your attention. Your performance could be affected if you can't focus, affecting your decision-making.
And that is a problem of the monkey mind.
Focus requires a trained mind, which has different aspects you must work on as part of the high-performance mind framework. You need a heightened awareness, and the body needs to work properly to produce and break-down neurotransmitters used for brain signal processing.
Of course, the brain can have problems sustaining focus, such as a condition like ADHD, but it could also be that it is just a brain processing issue. You may have heard different brain waves from alpha, beta, delta, and theta.
Sometimes the brain cannot sustain, for instance, a higher amount of beta waves, which is needed for the thinking mind over the course of the day.
Or maybe it cannot lower brainwave theta, which you usually encounter when falling asleep.
So at the end of the day, that's why I say that focus is a complex problem. It's not easy to work on, but it's good to become aware.
If you would like to explore this aspect in more depth: I created a short video “Lack of focus …”, which I encourage you to watch.
9. Lack of balance - “work more, achieve less” mentality.
I've often seen people think they can make everything up with hard work only to realize that, in the end, they gained less.
I fell into the same trap back in the 90s when I still worked at IBM Research Lab. I was working all night long doing some debugging. Only until 2 AM that I finally realized that there was not enough mental energy there anymore; it was not productive, and I wouldn't fix it even though I pushed through until morning. I went home and went back the following day at 10 AM. I sat down and fixed the bug within a half hour.
As you can see, this is a good example of how working hard is not equal to working smart, and working more is not better; you usually achieve less.
"Work less, achieve more" makes much more sense now, right? And that is the idea of a high-performance mindset: You get more done in that smaller time frame because you're mentally and physically fit. There is more energy, more drive, and more resilience.
And with that extra time, you can spend more time with family, friends, hobbies, and your well-being.
It may take time to achieve but let it sink in. If you would like to explore this aspect in more depth: I created a short video “Lack of balance …”, which I encourage you to watch.
10. Lack of present awareness (low LPA).
Level of Present Awareness (LPA) is the measurement of how present and aware you are over the course of the day. Typically, people who don't train their minds have the default state of mind, an untrained state of mind, and have a low LPA, around 1% to 3%.
Why is a low LPA a common challenge?
Research shows that self-awareness is a key fundamental quality of a successful leader. This ability helps you to become aware of your limiting thoughts, false beliefs, and reactive emotional thought patterns. But it also enables you to clarify your vision, mission, and purpose.
You cannot learn how to become self-aware by reading a book. It can be cultivated by regular and systematic mindfulness training or related methods, which would be impossible to achieve if you have a low LPA.
Low LPA also leads to stress, emotional stress, and eventually mental exhaustion; It's just a matter of time.
In this article, "What is Your Level of Present Awareness (LPA)," you can learn more about calculating your LPA and doing a baseline, and I also share a few simple exercises you can do.
Furthermore, if you would like to explore this aspect in more depth: I created a short video “Lack of present awareness (low LPA) …”, which I encourage you to watch.
Are you facing any of the challenges listed above?
Or do you have any other challenges that I missed in this article?
Those are the challenges you need to tackle to achieve true leadership mastery. The key to tackling them is to become aware of what problem you are facing right now and take action.
I have developed a data-driven 12-week training program, "The High-Performance Mind," leveraging the latest science and technology to assist senior tech leaders in optimizing their mind and brain performance to thrive in high-pressure environments.
There is also a starter edition available, which is a light-weight approach on getting started, taking some action, and actually making some progress toward achieving a state of a high-performance mindset.
You can reach out and contact me for an exploratory (free) get-to-know meeting, where I can outline some strategies based on your unique situation and objectives. This is my gift to you, and I encourage you to take advantage of it!
Take the first step today and be the best version of yourself!