Ambition can be a driving force for progress and productivity. Harmful ambition can, however, hamstring leaders, causing them to lose focus and adopt derailing behaviors. Leadership coaching can help leaders discover derailing tendencies and eliminate them to focus on the aspects of leadership that make a difference.

We tend to think of ambition in positive terms. Ambition is a source of motivation and a driver of accomplishments. It’s the hunger that drives us to transcend our comfort zones and venture out in search of improvement. We think of leaders as ambitious people ready to sacrifice personal comfort to impact lives and accomplish visions.


We see ambition as the engine of accomplishment. 

Like every human trait, however, ambition can derail and degenerate. Due to their positions of authority, leaders are especially vulnerable to developing what leadership coaching calls harmful ambition.

When Ambition Becomes Harmful

Leaders must craft visions, define objectives, and lead organizations to success. Some become so committed to these visions and objectives that their ambition turns toxic.

Without noticing, such leaders reach for their dreams at the expense of their health. They find they have no qualms about treading on others’ happiness and well-being.

Here are a handful of symptoms that may reveal whether your ambition has become harmful.

Becoming Addicted to Detailed Fantasies of Glory

Leadership coaching encourages leaders to craft detailed visions of the future and practical ways of achieving them. Some go overboard and devise intricate fantasies of success and unrealistic futures free of strife and fear. Once we perceive such fantasies as achievable, it’s easy to become obsessed with them.

Obsession with an Ideal Future Breeds Contempt for the Present 

Leaders addicted to ambition can’t help seeing the present with contempt, considering it the waiting room leading to glorious futures of fulfillment. The dangers of such an attitude are obvious. Constantly enthralled with the future, we overlook the present and fail to take advantage of the opportunities it offers.

Being obsessed with the future can also cause leaders to fail to appreciate their successes.

A Goal-Focused Mindset May Hurt Relationships

Executive coaching values meaningful relationships, seeing them as the essence of leadership. Successful, intelligent leaders are good at building meaningful relationships. Ambition-addicted leaders, by contrast, want results. They value activities based solely on the outcomes they create. They may overlook valuable contributions and miss opportunities to show appreciation to reports and employees.

Being Impatient and Constantly Rushing

Ambitious leaders feel an insatiable urge to always do something that takes them closer to their goals. Being on the move constantly makes one busy. Busy people tend to be impatient with others, and impatience and a breakneck pace of doing things can strain relationships.

Reacting Negatively to Failure

Ambitious and impatient people are always in a hurry. They perceive failure as a delay that aggravates them. Even mature leaders who know failures are stepping stones to success grow to hate the delays failures cause.

In worse cases, leaders find themselves riddled with panic and anxiety due to repeated failures. Anxiety can hamstring leadership competencies, thus causing further derailment.

Entitlement and a Scarcity Mindset

Intelligent leaders adopt abundance mindsets. Harmful ambition can corrupt these mindsets, infecting them with jealousy and entitlement. Jealousy is a toxic emotion as it prompts leaders to see accomplishments with contempt, causing frustration.

Executive Coaching Can Help

Executive coaching professionals understand the derailing effects of harmful ambition. They know how they can help leaders check their ambitions so they power creativity and productivity instead of derailment.


By slowing down, leaders can address leadership responsibilities carefully. They can pay attention to the aspects that matter, like building meaningful relationships and establishing coaching-focused cultures.



Gratitude opens the door to self-awareness and appreciation. 

Business coaching is an advocate of gratitude. Leaders who take time to count their blessings appreciate their accomplishments. As stressful as it may be sometimes, leadership is a position of privilege and blessing.


Time is our most precious resource. Leaders who donate time to worthy individuals invest in their own futures.

Ambition and aspiration always entail responsibility. Rampant ambition can lead us to hurt ourselves and others. Business coaching can help leaders understand derailing tendencies and bring them under control.


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