Barriers preventing you from being a better leader

By Randall S Peterson and Herminia Ibarra

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It’s hard to press pause and think about how to be more effective, especially when you’re caught in the daily grind.

The inaugural London Business School (LBS) Leadership Institute survey revealed that focusing too closely on day-to-day activities is the main barrier to success for 54% of the 1,248 senior professionals surveyed. According to 45% of executives, lack of strategic thinking is the biggest obstacle to reaching their leadership potential.

In other words, leaders are caught in a what-got-you-here won’t-get-you-there trap. They need to grow and learn but, according to research, spend upwards of 60% of their time in constant get-it-done-now mode.

Randall S Peterson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Academic Director of the Leadership Institute at LBS, says: “Most managers only spend 5% of their time on personal development and personal growth. Even a small shift in time away from the day-to-day and personal development can make a huge difference.”

Why do leaders spend their precious time on low value-add pursuits and less on crafting strategy? Herminia Ibarra, Charles Handy Chair in Organisational Behaviour; Professor of Organisational Behaviour at LBS, says: “It’s human tendency to focus on the things that you already know how to do well. So people get caught in competency traps.”

What prompts do you need to watch for? Professor Peterson reveals some of the most common derailers and how to address each one.



Once you know what’s holding you back and why you do the things you do, how can you develop as a leader without dropping the ball? Professor Ibarra explores insights including redefining the job you’re in, networking with different people and being more playful with your sense of self.



Finally, trying out new skills for size can feel at odds with who you are. On authenticity, Professor Ibarra notes: “What characterises a leadership transition is that people feel they’re caught between doing what it’ll take to be successful and being themselves.” But if you’re not used to something, it won’t feel authentic because it’s not yet habitual. It will only feel natural once you try it over and over again.

For advice on getting out of your “content zone” listen to this podcast, brought to you by the LI, and hosted by Vyla Rollins, Executive Director of the LI at LBS.

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