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Managing Yourself: Stop Holding Yourself Back

by Anne Morriss, Robin J. Ely, and Frances X. Frei | HBR

From the world’s poorest communities to the corner offices of its largest corporations, ambitious employees struggle with the same basic challenge: how to gain the strength and insights not just to manage but to lead. For more than a decade, from three different perspectives, we have been investigating what gets in the way. Robin conducts research on race, gender, and leadership; Frances focuses on coaching senior executives; and Anne works on unleashing social entrepreneurs around the world.

We’ve worked with hundreds of leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, in industries spanning more than 30 fields, and in more than 50 countries at various stages of development. Amid all the diversity, one very clear pattern has emerged: Organization builders, fire starters, and movement makers are unintentionally stopping themselves from becoming exceptional leaders. As a result, companies aren’t getting the best from their people, and employees are limiting their opportunities.

Why does this happen? We’ve identified five major barriers.

Barrier 1: Overemphasizing Personal Goals

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