Master your dark side and unlock your leadership potential

Leadership derailment

Have you ever been told that you have great leadership potential but feel you’ve never realised that potential? Or do you know someone who was flagged early on as a high-performer on a fast track to great career success but you’ve watched as it never materialised?

Simply emulating the traits that define great leadership without taking stock of your own personal shortfalls will always paint an incomplete picture of what it really takes for you to progress.

This limiting disconnect between the skills and traits you possess now, versus your leadership aspirations or what a new role requires of you, will often limit your career progression.

Poor leadership can cost businesses dearly. In a world where our leaders are expected to have vision, be highly agile and motivate those around them, uncovering what personal behaviours are stalling your success can be a win-win exercise for both you and the organisation.

Gareth M Lewis

Templar consultant, Gareth Lewis, a former stockbroker and private banker works with a wide range of financial services clients leveraging his sales and banking experience to deliver practical and results focused training and coaching.

Gareth is both Advanced DISC and Hogan Assessment Suite certified and uses these tools to help his clients build greater self-awareness and adaptability to the different challenges they meet in their working lives.

Many of you reading this blog will be very aware of the personality traits that align to make you good at what you do, and deliver successes in your career and wider life. You might also notice that when under pressure, these very same traits can often hinder your progress, damage relationships and in some cases, derail your careers.

Over the last three months, I’ve been working with a finance professional in his early 40s who was enjoying a successful career with peer and firm recognition as a high achiever with great leadership potential.

We first met six weeks into a new role he’d been asked to take on. In our first meeting, he described changes to his behaviour, how his normal energetic style had shifted to procrastination, irritability and mood swings.

When I interviewed those in his close team, they observed how he now spent much of the day locked in his office, no longer walking the floor, no longer visible. He had gone from being energetic and social to reserved and withdrawn.

That evening reflecting on the conversation, I looked back at my own career, the roles I’d taken, what motivated me to accept them, the fears and self-doubt I’d experienced and I remembered how my behaviours had changed in those moments.

On three occasions in the past, feeling “stuck” and noticing shifts in my behaviours, I have turned to a coach, someone who I felt could offer me a safe, non-judgmental space to allow me to explore what was causing me to derail and offer me unbiased guidance.

Today, sitting in front of my client I find myself on the other side, listening, not judging, looking in at his world and offering what my coaches have offered me over the years.

Coaches come in all shapes and sizes from the most formal to the most informal. There are many reasons why people seek the help of a coach and for my client, it was to help him understand why his behaviour had changed, find a way to manage these changes, get back on track and get an independent view from someone familiar with his profession.

When working with my clients I always start with some form of structured self-evaluation using one of the many psychometric tools available. Some of you will be familiar with personality and behaviour assessment tools such as Myers Briggs (MBTI), DISC and the Hogan Development Series (HDS).

Combined with a 360-evaluation (peer and team interviews), a deep understanding of your role and industry, I find that Hogan is the most revealing and most relevant in helping identify what drives and motivates us, what blocks our progress and what we can do to develop a powerful way forward.

Hogan assesses 11 forms of interpersonal behaviour, strengths but also weaknesses, which Hogan calls our dark side. It can help us identify the areas we need to work on in order to become the best version of ourselves and ultimately, unlock our true potential as a leader.

For my client, one of his derailers was manifesting itself as him being more ‘reserved’ in his new role. Under pressure he had withdrawn to the safety of his personal office, no longer visible on the floor and certainly not the energetic inspiring leader that he once was.

He’d also become ‘sceptical’, a derailing behaviour that Hogan defines as “being alert for deceptive behaviour in others and taking action when it is detected”. While a sceptical mind can be healthy in organisations, an unhealthy sceptic who mistrusts everyone around them , who holds grudges, is likely to cause problems.


It was quickly obvious to me in that first session with my client that reacting to the pressures of his new role his dark side had taken hold. If not dealt with,  it would impact his relationships with colleagues and ultimately affect his performance in this new role.

For many of my clients, the path to unlocking their leadership potential is a continuous journey. We are often blind to the behaviours that are sabotaging what we’re trying to achieve at work and in our wider lives.

Effective coaching should focus on identifying these derailing behaviours, exploring where we find ourselves today, the options open to us and importantly, our willingness to take action.

Keys to managing derailing behaviour:

  • Become more self-aware
  • Identify your derailing behaviours
  • Get peer and team feedback through 360-evalutaions
  • Explore strategies to manage derailing behaviour
  • Be open to change




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