have met the enemy and the enemy is us."
As the saying goes, we can
often be our own worst enemy.
Mistakenly, we believe that this
enemy within us is the hyper-critical one,
telling us we can't do anything right.
real enemy within is the self-protective one,
telling you that you are right and that have
done no wrong. This is the enemy that really
holds you back.
own shortfalls and admitting blame is harder than
it sounds because this behavior doesn't often come
We naturally don't want to be so
vulnerable as to admit to shortcomings, faults or
wrong-doings. Instead, we naturally want
to self-preserve and self-protect. Research
shows that we are more likely to rate ourselves more
favorably on key attributes vs. how our peers, our
bosses or our associates would rate us (or our
spouses). In part, some of this
self-inflation is driven by the natural need to
And yet, what
is counter intuitive about this is that the
more you self-protect, the more you actually
By over protecting
yourself, you hold yourself back. You
can't lead others or even lead yourself
when you are in a state of self-preservation;
whether it's protecting your job, protecting your
status, or protecting your turf.
In my work as a coach I hear
it all the time: "How can my boss care about me
and my development when all he is worried about is his
job?" Or the boss who says "How can I worry about
developing others when all I am
concerned about is holding onto my job?"
Unfortunately, during these tough
and insecure economic times with nearly 10%
unemployment, there is more self-protectionism than we
care to admit.
My own worst case of
self-protection came about when I had a boss who I
felt was not on my side. I went overboard trying
to shore up my business, my team and
my results. So much so, that I was blinded
to what I may have been doing wrong or in
hearing any valuable
During that time, I was
holding on to my job with the tightest of
grips. Unfortunately, as a result of protecting
myself so fiercely, it also happened to be when I
was the most inflexible, argumentative and
You see, when we over
protect ourselves, we don't often show our best
attributes. When we believe that we are
under attack or being blamed, the natural reaction is to
shore up and hold on, and sometimes even push
further. However, a smart leader leans
into this feedback with an openness and acceptance to
self-adjust, self-correct and learn.
It is in our most unsure
moments where we may be riddled with insecurity that we
need to accept that we may not have it all buttoned up
right. With this acceptance we can lead others
more effectively and lead ourselves towards
what can you do to grow as a leader if you know you are
in a self-protection mode?
Start a dialogue with your boss, your team,
and your colleagues. Ask for pointed,
constructive input on the impact of your actions.
Listen to the feedback with openness and a
willingness to adjust. Try to keep your
defenses down; fighting
against feedback with denial only hurts you, not
Affirm your value and strengths to
yourself. Self-protective behavior
usually is the result of an insecurity that
only you can fill.
Recognize that strength comes from admitting fault
and being vulnerable. These are not
signs of weakness, but important leadership
Realize that the best way to impact change is to
start with yourself! Do what you can to get out of
your own way.
know what you stand for? Join me on January 28th
for a workshop on how to turn your strengths and
values into a brand positioning statement for you and
your business. Check it out!
Interested in one-on-one
business coaching? Contact Laura for some customized
Lopez is an award-winning author of The
Connected and Committed Leader.
She is also a consultant, and a Birkman Method
certified business and life coach who has been featured
on the Today Show and Fox News.
addition, her accomplishments have been highlighted in
several business periodicals
including Personal Excellence, The Long Beach
Business Journal, The Houston Chronicle, Latina
Magazine, and Central Valley Business Times. Her
articles on management and leadership are regularly seen
in Leadership Excellence.
can be contacted via her Web site at: