The Intellectual Karmic Scrap Heap: Growing Past the Showstoppers


If you have showstoppers a/k/a fatal flaws, the best you can be is average. Your superpower will never see its full glory. By understanding what fatal flaws are and how to counteract them, you can reduce their effects on you, tap into more potential, and optimize your own performance. To see if you have a fatal flaw and how to work through it, you can use my fatal flaw worksheet (get your worksheet packet for free by subscribing to my newsletter, the Llama Times!).  

I discovered fatal flaws while studying the discipline of leadership. Many people take the stance that they aren’t leaders so leadership principles don’t apply to them. Not true. Leadership is about each individual leaning into the best pieces of who they are in each moment. I really like the founder of Activate Your Talent Katie Christy’s definition of leader: “There is no one-size-fits-all approach, answer key or formula to leadership. Leadership should be the humble, authentic expression of your unique personality in pursuit of bettering whatever environment you are in.” Exactly! Each of us is a leader in our own right. In order to express your unique personality in its highest form – as your superpower – you must grow past your fatal flaws.

Leadership researchers Zenger and Folkman first identified the concept of fatal flaws. Their leadership research indicated that if a leader has a fatal flaw profile, the only course of action is to fix it. The same holds true for you individually.

Zenger and Folkman analyzed data that compared the attributes and behaviors of the top 10% of leaders with the bottom 10% of leaders. Their research led to an important conclusion: “An analysis of our data reveals five patterns of behavior that consistently lead to a failure in leadership. Possessing one or more of these makes it virtually impossible for a person to be perceived as an effective leader.” These five patterns are:

·       Inability to learn from mistakes.

·       Lack of core interpersonal skills and competencies.

·       Lack of openness to new or different ideas.

·       Lack of accountability.

·       Lack of initiative.

Each one of these flaws is a showstopper in and of itself. Having one or more of these flaws limits your ability to lean into your social currency and superpower.  

Even though Zenger and Folkman’s research uncovered five detrimental behavior patterns, there is one that is considered the single biggest cause of failure: the inability to learn from mistakes. Essentially, all leaders make the same number of mistakes. However, effective leaders use those mistakes as learning experiences while ineffective leaders hide mistakes and then worry about them, sometimes for years.

Zenger and Folkman believe this inability to learn from mistakes possibly can be attributed to a leader’s failure to see current reality accurately or to be able to analyze one’s own behavior. The same holds true on your personal development path.

Individuals who lack interpersonal skills and competencies limit their overall effectiveness. If you want to maximize potential and optimize performance, you have to have solid interpersonal skills and competencies. This fatal flaw is easily remedied by reading one of the greatest books ever written on interpersonal skills and putting the tips from the book into practice: How To Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. His book offers practical tips and advice on how to improve interpersonal skills such as “begin with praise and honest appreciation,” “call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly,” ask questions instead of giving direct orders” and “let the other person save face.”  Follow his guidance and this fatal flaw won’t be an issue for you.

The next fatal flaw is lacking openness to new or different ideas. Leaders who engage in this behavior will do things the same way, because that is the way they have always done them and for no other reason. One of my sons attended a school that loved to use the “but we’ve always done it that way” excuse. It drove me batty to hear that excuse. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t make it right. Leaders who have this profile also tend to be close-minded when it comes to new ideas. To overcome this flaw, ask your team members or family members and friends for their ideas and hear them out. When trying to solve a challenge, ask this simple question, “What am I missing?” Work to be open-minded and try new things.

Not holding yourself accountable is also a fatal flaw. You have to take responsibility for yourself. Be it good or bad, you must be accountable for your performance. The best way to begin holding yourself accountable is by asking this question of yourself: “How did my behavior contribute to where we are?” Then make different decisions and act more like the leader you are.

Finally, you must have initiative. It is a roadblock to be passive and wait for things to happen in order to respond. If you are concerned that you engage in this fatal flaw, begin to ask yourself “How can I step up here?” or “What more can I do?”

All of us engage in these fatal flaws once in a while. That is not a problem. When these behaviors are regular patterns, however, that is a problem. Fatal flaws almost guarantee your inability to maximize your superpower. If you want to shine, any fatal flaws must be addressed.

The Emotional Karmic Scrap Heap is next. Get ready to work through some good stuff!

Your cape awaits!

Tomi Llama

Want more from the Tomi Llama? Sign up for the Llama Times newsletter below!

clear yourselfTomi Llama