Self-Centered Leadership: The Odds of Finishing Well

Most leaders I know want to finish well. Yet studies show that the majority of us don’t. Money, sex, pride, power, family problems, and plateauing are cited as the big barriers facing leaders who want to finish well.

  • But what causes leaders to fall prey to these pitfalls?
  • Why do successful, talented, and bright leaders so often sabotage their professional and personal lives through immoral and destructive behavior?


In most cases, a fall is neither sudden nor without warning. On the contrary, the path of leaders to bad behavior is often a predictable process. The first step toward a downward spiral is growing self-centeredness. Leaders become increasingly confident about their accomplishments until they start to believe that they are special. As a result, they begin to make decisions in isolation, discounting the contributions and counsel of others.

Self-Centered Leadership

When self-centered leaders become convinced that they alone can steer the ship, they stop managing their own lives in a healthy way. They spend too many hours at work and ignore loved ones. This pattern turns into bad habits – such as eating poorly and seldom stopping to rest and recharge.

If this process is left to run its course, then leaders tend to become more indulgent, believing that their hard work has earned them the right to a little bad behavior – whether it’s overeating, or being unfaithful, or any one of the temptations cited above. These behaviors usually lead to isolation, broken relationships, and finally self-sabotage.

Avoid Self-Sabotage

In the end, the way to avoid self-sabotage is for leaders to be aware of these enemies that deteriorate our inner world and how they are damaging us step-by-step. The antidote is to surround ourselves with people who have our permission to ring the warning bell when they see these slippages occur. It also requires a deliberate effort to plan and engage in daily activities that allows us to replenish our spiritual, emotional, relational and physical health. Replacing bad habits with good ones requires diligence, a specific plan, and an intentional effort to be accountable.

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