Derailing behaviours

Greg Kirwan looks at the signs of derailing behaviour and what happens if they are not addressed.

In today’s world of work, leaders need to be more resilient than ever. The impact of the pandemic and a widely dispersed workforce have had major repercussions on the way leaders and their teams need to operate. It’s essential for leaders to be future fit and have the necessary tools at their disposal so that their actions are empirically proven to stabilise organisations. Leaders also need to be able to inspire, influence, and transform teams, be courageous and authentic, and increasingly need to change or strengthen the culture within teams.

In this series, Olivier Mythodrama’s CEO Greg Kirwan looks at how leadership teams can make a positive impact, what happens when leaders get it wrong, how they can overcome challenges and why they need to be future fit.


Depending on what is driving it, ambition can be a powerful asset for any leader. It can be seen as crucial to successful action, but it can also be a catalyst for disaster. Ineffective leaders contribute to low morale amongst team members, and even cause talented individuals to leave an organisation.

There are individual leaders and, in some cases, whole teams who suffer from derailment. Some don’t realise it, but, more often than not, organisations don’t want to admit it and HR teams don’t want to deal with it.

Organisational priorities understandably shifted a few years ago. This required the rethinking of strategies and ways of working to survive the instability that the pandemic presented. In some cases, the impact of the pandemic made the problem of derailing behaviour worse. Work and personal pressures increased, as we were all having to cope with a completely new way of life and way of working. There was, and still is, an increased need for emotional intelligence and empathy to ensure the wellbeing of teams. Such skills were embraced by many organisations and their leadership teams, but not all. And even within those organisations who looked to support their workforce, individual leaders were not able to step up and remained detached.

If derailing behaviour is not addressed, especially within leadership teams, it is very likely that future success for that team or organisation will be limited.

It’s often the case that those displaying derailing behaviours are not aware they’re doing it, and if they are aware they’re unwilling to admit it, so addressing the problem can be incredibly challenging.

There are many red flags to look out for, including:

  • Lack of focus and presence
  • Not listening
  • Not taking responsibility
  • Lack of trust in their team or organisation
  • Always having the last word

If a leader is showing these signs, the impact on their team can be dramatic. Employees look frightened, they compete against each other and try to outperform each other and eventually display derailing behaviours themselves.

We’ve all probably exhibited derailing behaviours to some extent in our working lives without realising it, by showing behaviours that undermine our teams and our own development. In most cases we’ve realised this, addressed it, and moved on. There are however those who show more extreme behaviours. It’s those who most need the feedback that wont listen to the idea that they need to change. Understandably, receiving negative feedback is never easy to take and if it’s a leader or leadership team that are causing the derailment it’s not easy to give that feedback either, so HR teams are often stuck with wanting to do something, but not knowing what or how.

Using training and coaching earlier on in a person’s career can help prevent these derailing behaviours taking hold in the first place but are also effective in helping overcome the impact the behaviours have had on teams and other individuals.


Olivier Mythodrama has been delivering innovative and thought provoking leadership training for over 20 years. The people and organisations we have worked with describe our training as life changing. We think they’re right. We already work with some of the world’s leading businesses. Are you ready to join them?

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