How to avoid a leadership fatal flaw

BY MICHAEL F. BROOM, Ph.D., Organization Development Psychologist

Leaders must always be strong, confident, decisive, and flawless; they must be able to do anything they ask their followers to do and they must never need the support of others.

Many leaders believe those three statements. Unlike the rest of us, they must hide whatever human frailties they may have. No wonder it’s so lonely at the top, and the imposter syndrome is so prevalent.

Leaders who believe those statements will burn out, stress out, and will suffer along with their organizations.

The best leaders understand they can accomplish their goals only with the help and support of others. They know they cannot accomplish much at all by themselves.

Effective leaders also know that they need followers to help them get through trying times, do things they don’t know how to do and challenge them when they lose faith in themselves.

Leaders who believe they cannot ask for help and support may fear being judged as insufficient if they cannot do everything; they expect of themselves by themselves. Our individualistic society teaches that if you are good enough, you can do “it” by yourself.

Are you hesitant to ask for help, fearing others will see you as weak or incompetent? Do you feel that asking for help will undermine your credibility?

Leaders often refuse to ask for support because they believe relying on others is dangerous; depending on others risks failure. They think, “If I want it done right, I’ll have to do it myself.”

Such fear is frequently based on a lack of confidence in their ability to motivate others effectively; therefore, they must do it themselves. Some believe that people (including their followers) are untrustworthy; consequently, they must do it themselves.

How much do you trust your followers? Do you need to have the final say about almost everything?

Leaders who won’t ask for help create significant negative consequences for their followers and organizations.

Morale decreases, and the followers of such leaders will feel they are not trusted or valued. That leads to poor engagement, loss of productivity and high turnover.

Stress increases when leaders do not ask for help and become strained and overwhelmed by their workload. This negatively impacts their physical and mental health, and their anxiety will stress their followers, further lowering morale and decreasing productivity.

Leaders who want to overcome their habit of not allowing support must recognize their faulty belief systems.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it shows the strength and humility that followers admire. Leaders who ask for help demonstrate that they are open to learning and growth and value and want their team members’ contributions.

Believe that people are not trustworthy, and you will act accordingly. But you can build trust by communicating openly and honestly, being transparent about your decision-making process, and showing a willingness to listen and learn from others.

By building trust, you can create a non-judgmental environment where team members, including you, feel comfortable asking for help. You will feel confident in delegating tasks and seeking support when needed.

To summarize, asking for help can be difficult, but it is critical for your success and the success of your organization. By identifying the beliefs preventing you from asking for help, you can create an environment in which it is acceptable and encouraged.

When you ask for help, you show you are strong, confident, and committed to your team’s success. The job of leadership becomes much more manageable. And, because your team members are fully engaged and motivated, you will have more time and energy to focus on strategic initiatives.

Michael F. Broom, Ph.D., is the founder and CEO of the Center for Human Systems. Check him out on his website at Or email him at if you have questions about effectively leading or managing change.

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