Mel Savage Executive Coaching
Being a Confident Leader

4 Stages of Leadership Breakup (that are completely avoidable)

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Here are 4 stages of common leadership strategy mistakes new leaders make that negatively impact their performance, and can ultimately lead to “breaking up with leadership” (and what to do instead).

When I first started coaching 4 years ago, I had a podcast called, The Career Reset. I started it because I wanted to help people find the career they loved.

I did lots of things on that podcast.

I interviewed leaders about their careers. I gave lots of advice on career visioning and job searching. I shared my own story and how to avoid the same mistakes I made.

And as I became a more experienced coach, I realized that careers don’t make people happy.

Being happy in your career is a skill you learn and a choice you make every day.

And I’ll go even further to say the need to be happy causes many people a lot of pain.

So as I got smarter, I made shifts.

I shifted from helping people find a career they love to helping people be successful in the career they have. And then I shifted again into what I do now, which is working with leaders to become highly valued.

And somewhere along that transition, I quit the podcast.

I thought it wasn’t relevant anymore. I thought it was a mistake. I was embarrassed about it.

And I think we all do that a lot. We make our past learnings a mistake.

But the truth is, your mistakes are the stepping stones for today’s success.

I often say, failure is not the opposite of success. It’s the process of success.

I wouldn’t have such a great relationship with my second husband if I didn’t blow it with my first.

I wouldn’t have so many strong female friendships if I wasn’t a crappy friend in the past.

I wouldn’t be the confident leader I am today if I wasn’t once a micromanager with imposter syndrome.

The process of becoming a valuable leader requires you to let the past be something you build on. Not something you use against yourself.

So I’ve decided to reinvigorate, rebrand and relaunch my old podcast because there’s value in those old episodes. And also value in the journey of making those episodes.

My team and I are working diligently to get the old episodes on my website, and brand new episodes ready for late October.

During this process, I listened to one of my early episodes called The 4 Stages of Career Breakup. I shared the emotional journey that often leads to wanting to break up with your career.

And I decided to use that as inspiration.

This week, I share the 4 Stages of Leadership Breakup that are completely avoidable.

Here are 4 stages of common leadership strategy mistakes new leaders make that negatively impact their performance, and can ultimately lead to “breaking up with leadership” (and what to do instead).

Stage 1: You don’t truly give yourself credit for your accomplishment.

You’ve worked hard to put yourself into a leadership position. You’re excited about it and you take time to celebrate. You go for a nice dinner. Maybe buy yourself something fancy.

Logically, you recognize your achievement. But emotionally, part of you is having trouble believing it’s actually happened. And because of that, you don’t truly give yourself credit that you totally, 100%, no question, without a doubt deserve this opportunity.

Instead of thinking, “Ya, this won’t be easy, but I know I’ll figure it out” … you think “I hope I don’t blow this”.

And slowly, that initial excited nervousness you felt when you got the role, just turns into full-on nervousness.

The Remedy:

Take the time to ground yourself in the following truths…

You did this.

Even if people helped, you created an environment where they wanted to help you. Even if there was a bit of luck, you put yourself in the position to be lucky.

You let yourself fail, learn, and grow.

You made it happen. And you can make anything happen.

You deserve to be here.

Stage 2: You think you need to prove yourself.

You have this new job to figure out. And you start to worry you might fail. So, you start thinking you need to prove you deserve the job.

The idea you need to prove yourself comes from a belief you’re not already good enough to do the job. And that puts you on the defense.

Every choice you make is secretly directed at convincing everyone, including yourself, that you’re supposed to be here.

You put extra pressure on yourself and your team to not make a mistake. You’re double checking everyone’s work.

You push yourself to have all the answers for any question anyone might ask. Not just for your own work, but for everyone on your team.

And you do all this because you think it makes you valuable. But it actually works against you.

Your team feels overmanaged. And you’re not operating at your best because you’re worried, stressed out, and overworked.

All of which came from the belief you need to prove yourself.

The Remedy:

Don’t try to prove yourself. You’ve already got the job. The proving is done. You’re #1 focus at this point needs to be learning the new job. Not trying to do it perfectly from Day 1.

Also, accept you will fail. What’s wrong with that?

You’ll have little failures every day that you get to learn from. When you accept failure is a normal part of the process, you stop worrying about it. And when you stop worrying about it, you create space to trust that you can figure anything out.

Need help figuring out what leadership success looks like? Book a leadership strategy session and see how executive coaching is the right solution for you. Click here.

Stage 3: You doubt yourself more and more.

When you’re attempts to control everything and have all the answers starts to backfire, it shakes you to your core. These are the things that used to make you valuable as an individual contributor. But you’re no longer getting consistent praise.

In fact, it’s the opposite. You’re getting more feedback on what’s NOT working. So you start to feel undervalued. And it impacts your confidence.

You question yourself more than you ever did before. You read way too much into comments from your boss. You replay scenarios in your head over and over.

And somehow through all of this, you think the solution is to work even harder. To do even more.

And of course, that just makes it harder for you to think clearly and show up at your best. And so the pattern of doubting yourself and feeling undervalued continues.

The Remedy:

You need to shift out of your identity as an individual contributor and start building a new identity as a leader.

I recommend building a vision of your leadership brand. Set new goals for who you are and how you operate as a leader and then practice stepping into that version of you.

Not sure how to set up your leadership vision? Click here to book a leadership strategy session and see how executive coaching can help set you up for success.

Stage 4: You start thinking you’re not cut out for this.

You’re not someone who gives up easily. You’ve been trying to make it work in your new role, but it’s not working.

You’ve tried everything you know how to do. Plus you’ve read leadership books and went to the company-sponsored leadership training. It helped a bit but it didn’t make enough of a difference.

You’re used to feeling valued and you just feel like you’re failing all the time.

You’re confused. You’re not sure of your next best move.

You’re considering changing companies. Or quitting your job. Or going back to school. Or maybe taking a step back.

You’re even questioning if you’re cut out to be a leader. And you’re thinking of breaking up with leadership and the career you’ve spent years building.

The Remedy:

If you’re in Stage 4 of your breakup, don’t try to figure it out alone. Ideally, get some professional help.

Of course, I recommend a coach, and here’s why. By the time you’re in Stage 4, it’s harder to make a clear decision about your career because you’ve got all these really deep negative thoughts and emotions in the way.

You’ve lost belief in yourself. And you’re tired.

Is this the place from which you want to make a career decision? Logically, no. Emotionally however, you just want relief.

That’s where an executive coach can come in, help you clean up your thinking and make a strategic decision about what to do next.

Get the support you need. It starts with booking a leadership strategy session by CLICKING HERE.

Bottom Line: The more you try to avoid failure, the faster it happens.

You don’t need to prove yourself. You already deserve this job. You failed your way to this place. And you figured it out. You simply need to set new goals for what success looks like and fail your way to becoming the new leadership version of you.


I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.

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