icon-email icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-print icon-rss icon-search icon-stumbleupon icon-twitter icon-arrow-right icon-email icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-print icon-rss icon-search icon-stumbleupon icon-twitter icon-arrow-right icon-user Skip to content
Senior Correspondent

You can try and fail one or two times. But, persistent failure – in the same area – signals incompetence. Everyone who gets ahead establishes a track record of reliability. You can’t be trusted if you keep falling short. Lose trust – lose leadership.

10 phrases incompetent leaders keep saying:

1. I can’t.
2. I don’t know how.
3. I’m over-committed.
4. I need to do less.
5. I’m doing too much.
6. I don’t have time.
7. I didn’t get to it.
8. My team fell short.
9. I hope to do better.
10. I’m not good at ….

Recurring use of “incompetent phrases” reflects lack of ownership and responsibility.

Stop talking.
Seek advice.
Take action.
Reflect and repeat.

Weakness whines. Leaders act.

10 ways to rise:

1. Remember that recurring failure disadvantages others. You matter more than you think. You damage your team’s reputation, too.
2. Be proactive. Go to the boss before she comes to you. “I’m concerned about meeting this deadline.”
3. Don’t pretend you’ve done more than you have. “I ordered the parts but they didn’t come in,” is a half truth, if you ordered them late. People see you blowing smoke and learn not to trust you.
4. Press forward aggressively. Never begin a sentence with, “I’m waiting for…”  Instead, say, “I’m trying this.”
5. Ask for help. People enjoy helping if you’ve done your best and fallen short. But, people never enjoy doing your job for you.
6. Learn from people who are succeeding where you’re failing. They’re success may irritate you. Get over it.
7. Reflect on your passion. Do you love what you do? Or, are you doing things just to please others.
8. Own it.
9. Surround yourself with talent.
10. Start again.

What might leaders do when they persistently find themselves falling short?

Everyone has areas of incompetence. Make a list of three ways you can deal with one of your areas of incompetence. Show it to a trusted colleague. Take action.

Stay Up to Date

Sign up for articles by Dan Rockwell and other Senior Correspondents.

Latest Stories

Choosing Senior Living
Love Old Journalists

Our Mission

To amplify the voices of older adults for the good of society

Learn More