The sage and the saboteur


Leadership skills to help you get out of your own way


The sage and the saboteur exist within everyone. Business strategist Tony Robbins does a great job of explaining how they manifest:

“Saboteurs are the set of mind patterns that govern your every move. They automatically influence your beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors, and they are steering you in the wrong direction – that is, you’re sabotaging yourself. The sage is your infinite wisdom and it’s the good part of this equation. When your sage is activated, you’re operating from another part of the brain. It guides you to your deepest insight. It helps you make good decisions. It’s balanced and does not involve the ego.”

The inner sage and saboteur act as cycles of decision. One can become either the saboteur (victim) or the sage (owner). The sage or wisdom-filled parts of ourselves lead us to recognize, own, self-examine, and take action.

The saboteur wants us to deny, blame, rationalize, resist, and ultimately, hide. Hiding always seems like the easier option because you don’t have to face whatever’s challenging you, but this means no self-examination or subsequent growth.

Shirzad Chamine, an author and past CEO of a large executive coaching companies, wrote a book on positive intelligence. He describes it as the difference between your mind serving you instead of sabotaging you. Chamine’s research reveals that teams working to strengthen their positive intelligence quotient perform 30%-35% better on average and report being far happier and less stressed.

The big difference between the saboteur and sage might sound as simple as having a positive outlook. However, simple rarely gets us where we want to go. First, we must recognize when the saboteur has taken over. Second, we need to consistently intervene saboteur behavior and pivot to sage-like actions. This is where self-awareness and internal intentions become tools and sidekicks.

Pause and ask questions to pinpoint what has gone wrong or right in a situation. When is the saboteur triggered? When am I able to be more reflective on my choices?

Our inner sage gives us deeper insight where the saboteur creates a clouded view where there will be only regression. Once triggered, the choice is ours to show up with the sage power or sabotage our situation.

Create awareness around your choices. Recognize and bring attention to how you instinctually react and where your actions could be more sage and insightful. The ultimate leadership skill is recognizing where you went wrong and shifting your behavior in the future. It also is the hardest part of being a leader, but the tool that will pay off the most.

Greg Aden is a leadership consultant, executive coach, master facilitator, and speaker whose mission is to develop leaders to empower change. He is a highly prolific franchise development professional who helps organizations see creative solutions to difficult problems by focusing on efficiencies and results. He can be reached at or (469) 879-8211.


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