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5 traps unsuccessful leaders fall into and how to avoid them

[3 min read]

What if your thoughts could unlock doors and open up possibilities beyond your Comfort Zone?

As Neale Donald Walsch famously said: “Life begins at the end of the comfort zone!” and so does your leadership success.

Take a look at this diagram and apply it to your current professional situation:

Comfort Zone - Blog 5 Traps - Professional Development - Leadership Skills


The smaller circle represents your comfort zone right now. It is the feeling of ‘I know what I know’ and it is a place where you feel comfortable, safe and certain. The edge of the circle is called ‘the boundary condition of your thinking’ and it represents the conscious limits of your thoughts. It separates the familiar from the unfamiliar. For you to go to the place of ‘ultimate leadership success’, you must be willing to press beyond your limits and find out what you don’t know.


Why would you want to move beyond the boundary conditions of your thinking?

It is said that every result you get in your life is based on what you already know and the action you choose as a result of that knowledge. Did you know that successful people fail more often than unsuccessful ones? They do because they have the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and learn from their mistakes. Remember, successful people perceive challenges as stepping-stones whereas unsuccessful people seem to see challenges as stumbling blocks.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

The space between the ‘comfort zone’ and the two interrupted circles is the place where ‘you know what you don’t know’. You realise that there are other possibilities but don’t yet know what they are.

If you were an accountant for example, you might well know how to create reports, confidently perform weekly or monthly processes, accruals, journals etc. But would you know how to prepare management reports, how to analyse revenue figures and confidently present them in an appropriate format to Executive Management? Would you know how to lead a team and effectively deal with interpersonal conflicts?

The edge of the large circle is another boundary of thinking. The inside of the large circle is the place where ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. There are possibilities that you didn’t even know existed; it is the place where the puzzle pieces will fall into place! In order for you to grow both individually and professionally, you must be willing to constantly push beyond your current boundaries. Each time you expand your comfort zone, what is unfamiliar becomes more familiar. This is true growth and evolution that will bring you closer to, and eventually place you in, the ‘magic circle’. The actions you take will allow you to experience the place you initially did not even know existed!

Expanding your thoughts beyond the boundary conditions of your thinking is about:

  • Being aware and willing to think differently and embrace unfamiliar situations. It involves having the curiosity and desire to go where you’ve never gone before.
  • Asking different and better questions to stretch your thinking. For example, rather than wondering “Why do I always have to work overtime?” ask yourself “What do I need to learn about myself and how can I grow from this situation to gain more work-life balance?” Going blank or answering your question with “I don’t know” indicates that you have reached a boundary. At this point most people give up and go back to what they know. Push on and spend some time to come up with answers either by yourself or with the help of other people.
  • Recognising that you have power in life. You have the choice between allowing fear and doubt to keep you in your comfort zone OR being courageous and trusting yourself to expand your comfort zone.


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How can you go beyond your boundary conditions?

There are many different ways, but one of the easiest is simply to be curious. Have ‘childlike wonder’ and choose to challenge things versus just accepting them as they are. You must also be willing to screw up (not just for the sake of it, but to learn from it and knowing that you did the best you could at the time), to have another go and make different mistakes next time.

You can also go beyond your career boundary conditions by:

  • Changing your attitude towards challenges you face with your team
  • Improving your communication skills
  • Committing and keeping the promises you made to yourself and others
  • Taking the action required for change
  • And much more…

A coach and professional development expert can effectively assist you with going beyond your limits. They can help you realise that you have endless choices available to you.


Following are the 5 traps unsuccessful leaders fall into and how you can avoid them, so you don’t fall into that category:

  1. They hold values that are not supportive of what they want (for example they think they want a team that work together effectively but subconsciously feel as if a well-functioning team isn’t necessary for their success)
  2. They link negative emotions to what they do want (for example they might have been brought up with the firm belief that high achievers are ruthless people)
  3. They believe their choices and possibilities are limited (for example they believe they can only hold a CEO position with high qualifications which they don’t have)
  4. They are avoiding pain and failure instead of seeking success and satisfaction (for example they are so scared of failing at presenting to Executive Management that they don’t step up to the plate and won’t take the lead)
  5. They don’t know how to stay constantly motivated to take action (for example failing to set yearly goals, reviewing them regularly and acknowledging achievements)

If any of these apply to you, you have just increased your level of awareness, which is the first step to change. What’s it gonna be; staying put or unlocking doors to the incredible Unknown?


“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” ~ Plato


“Dare to make a difference!” #WeMakeItEasy #LeadershipSkills


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