7 ‘sins’ that can blacken your image

You may think of them as “merely vices,” but succumbing to even one of the seven deadly sins can cripple your ability to lead.

And don’t think you can police yourself, says William Rushman, a California-based technology consultant who studies the seven deadlies. “We have all seen people do evil things and then ignore or rationalize them,” he points out. “Somehow, we think we are immune.”

Here’s the reality: If you succumb to a major vice, your friends will almost never tell you, and even if they did, you wouldn’t accept it, Rushman says. He advises listening closely to your boss during performance reviews, and even more closely to conversations with people who dislike you.

Here’s a refresher on how those seven sins cut into your leadership.

  1. Pride cloaks itself as excessive belief in your own abilities and disproportionate competitiveness. Playing to win is fine, provided your joy lies in the playing. But if your happiness depends on defeating others, you’re headed for a fall.
  2. Envy causes you to crave others’ traits, status, abilities or situations … at their expense. If you’ve ever dished dirt about an upstanding colleague, that’s envy, and your people will see it as a fatal flaw.
  3. Greed isn’t just about money; it’s also about having the corner office and the perks … and, ultimately, power. To curb your greed for power, you must be generous in granting it to others. Share credit for successes, and claim responsibility for failures.
  4. Lust in the workplace spells the end of people’s trust in you. If you’ve been crashing together on a high-pressure deadline or stuck together on an eighthour conference call, even the most annoying colleague might start to look attractive. Resist the urge. Take a break. Call your best friend and say you’re losing your mind. Laugh and shake it off.
  5. Anger shows in the person who nurtures fury and resentment. An angry boss can scare the daylights out of his or her people, and it’s even worse if you start enjoying that feeling of power and stirring your wrath more often. While a little anger with good cause can help propel you through a rough patch, in the long run, nobody wants to do business with an angry executive.
  6. Gluttony rears its head when you demand too much from people. Temperance provides the antidote.
  7. Sloth isn’t just for slackers. Even busy people can fall prey to sloth by putting off important decisions, losing their zeal or falling into complacency or apathy. Nothing proves more deadly to your career than failing to lead.

    — Adapted from “The Seven Deadly Sins,” William Edward Rushman, www.rushman.org/seven.