March 2024

LEADER PRACTICE No. 12: Superpower or Achilles Heel

We all have patterns of behaviors and mindsets that we think of as “superpowers.” We believe they give us an edge. Often, they are critical to our identity. What’s your superpower? Are you super responsible, funny, smart, or productive? Do you easily engage and connect with others? Are you wired to win? When I ask my clients about the emergence of their superpowers, they almost always report being rewarded, as children, for exhibiting characteristics that over time became lifelong patterns. In coaching, we uncover habitual patterns and ask an important question: how do they continue to serve us?

We learn that “superpowers” can sometimes get in our way and hold us back. At times, a superpower can become an Achilles heel. The challenge with ingrained, habitual patterns is how they become activated without our knowing it. We feel compelled to operate in a certain way. One of my habitual patterns is to automatically take responsibility. Intellectually, I know that my hyper-responsibility robs other people of opportunities to step into a challenge, take ownership, and grow and yet it is hard to do otherwise.

The work we do in coaching focuses on becoming aware of our patterns. With recognition we enlarge our capacity to choose how we respond. We can opt for familiar patterns or we can choose a different strategy. Portia Nelson’s poem, “Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters,” beautifully illustrates the journey of working with patterns. We don’t have to continue falling into the [pattern] hole and blaming others. We can get ourselves out and learn to walk around the hole. We celebrate with clients when they are in Chapter 3 and get out of their holes and begin walking around them. What are your superpowers? Are they sometimes your Achilles heel?



  • What are my superpowers? How is this part of my constructed identity? How old are these patterns?
  • How do these patterns or mindsets sometimes get in the way?


  • How/when do these patterns routinely show up?
  • Am I compelled to act on my pattern?
  • Can I sometimes pause and choose a different path?
  • What’s it like to interrupt a pattern? Is it uncomfortable?

The Positive Intelligence organization has a free assessment “9 Ways We Self Sabotage” that provides clues about the ways our patterns constellate and sometimes get in the way and sabotage us.

Until next month…

Dana's signature

Founder and Principal Coach