leadership myths

Six Insane (but common) Leadership Myths

There are some huge misconceptions about what it means to be a leader or to even be in a leadership role. I know I have run the gamut of some BIG ones myself when I began moving into more leadership type roles. These misconceptions can hinder your effectiveness as a leader and even hurt the very relationships you are trying so hard to cultivate. My purpose in this article is to list and discuss some of the sneakiest misconceptions about leadership. If you read on you may find that you still operate inside some of them. Watch out though… the results aren’t pretty!

Myth #1

Leadership means I have finally arrived and get to call the shots.

There are those who just naturally want to achieve and move "higher in the ranks." You may be one of them. But once you arrive at those long desired “ranks,” sometimes the power can just simply go to your head. You may begin to think that you have earned the right to call all the shots, and that you alone have the privilege of making all the big decisions! Moreover, you believe people should respect that… They should recognize! (snap your fingers in the air when you read that one) You are where you are for a reason, and that reason is that you know what the hell you are doing. They should just listen and do what you say, right?

The Truth

WRONG! Rising through the ranks simply means you remember how it feels to be the "underling." You know what it means to be on the job dealing with the customers, or, in some cases, doing real grunt work yourself. This gives you special insight – or it should. It means that as a leader you realize that everyone has good ideas, and that sometimes the best ideas are not yours alone. Sometimes, the best ideas belong to the people who don’t call the shots. Those great ideas need an environment to grow and become something more. It's your job as a leader to help cultivate within others the realization that we all have something to contribute. No one person is greater than another when working within a true team. A leader understands this. A leader knows when to back down and let others shine!

Myth #2

Leadership means everyone should conform to how I communicate.

There you are; sitting in the big dog’s chair. Life is different now because you have so many more decisions to make and orchestrate on a daily basis. Sadly, this can cause you to become a terrible communicator. For example, you begin to communicate sloppily. You do things based on your schedule, not taking into account others’ schedules or workloads. You shoot off emails without context, you don’t reply to some emails at all. Heck, sometimes you don’t even have time to connect in a human way with your team. And they should just understand this, right? You have a lot going on. You are the leader. You are the main “thang” – they’ll understand.

The Truth

Most of the time they don’t understand. All of these actions are subtle, but solid communications to your team and co-workers. These kind of communications say that you don’t have time for them, that you are really not interested in helping to build them up or helping the team win as one unit. It shows them that your time and your priorities are all that matter to you.

Unless you realize that this communication issue can occur early on, it can quickly become a huge problem for you and your team. Every time you communicate poorly, or without thought for others, your team and its objectives are affected negatively. The team sees you as just a "placeholder" boss or manager, and they lose respect quickly. They will eventually lose interest in helping the team achieve goals (because of your example), and your work product as a manager will suffer greatly. All of this will happen because of your choice to not take the time to learn how to communicate with your team, and to understand them in a personal way.

Myth #3

Leadership means everyone has to meet all my expectations all the time or they aren't working hard enough.

The fact that you get sit in that big comfy chair (LOL) means you worked pretty hard to get to where you are. It also means you expect that same level of effort from everyone you manage. People are delegated tasks and given new responsibilities, and you expect them to take those just as seriously as you would have if the task had been assigned to you. But, guess what – they are not you. As a manager it can be a tough pill to swallow when you realize that people on your team may lack the dedication you think they should have – that's life (cue Frank Sinatra!)

The Truth

Sorry, buddy, but not everyone has your ambition. That means that as a leader you have to find out what they do want. If what they want doesn’t fit your company or team culture, maybe it's time for them to go. Or maybe it's time for you to put in the work to figure out what does motivate them. This is where the real work comes in. This is where true leadership happens. It’s time to invest in them as a person. Find out how to teach them. Find what they are searching for and help them achieve it. Help them hone their skills to get where they want to go. Trust me, this one is super rewarding, but also a difficult feat for both you and them.

Myth #4

Leadership means that my team should own every task, and I shouldn't have to "check in" on them.

Yes, your team should own their assignments, yes they should rise to the challenge of a new problem, and yes they should always act like adults. You have so many projects to manage, your team should understand that you just don’t have time to check on them every day. You are just too busy putting out fires and keeping people happy. They just need to buck up and do their jobs and always follow-through, and make life easier for you. Surely, that’s not too much to ask?

The Truth

Sorry, it ain’t gonna happen like that. In fact, you are short-sighted to think that they will always follow-through and always make the right decisions. It’s not possible. They are human, and they are the team not the leadership. Many of your team may not even be mature enough to see that your load is much heavier than theirs. The truth here hurts pretty badly because it screams that you have to make time, and you have to check on your team to make sure that the projects you own together are successful. You have to train them to learn how to follow through. You have the responsibility to show them how to follow through. Once they have that understanding, then you can back off. If this is a necessary skill for their job, give them the opportunity to succeed at it – and hold their feet to the fire when they stop meeting that expectation. This is your job.

Myth #5

Leadership means you never have to say you are sorry.

This one is simple. You are right all the time. Sure, you get upset. Let’s say you are in a heated discussion, and maybe you say some things that you normally wouldn’t, but, again, you are the boss. You are the one who has to carry the weight of the decisions and the weight of their failure. Your team just needs to understand that when you get angry and make statements that might come across a little harsh.

The Truth

No, Bueno! Get over yourself. Swallow your pride and do what is right. When you are wrong, you know it, and so does everyone else. You must own your mistakes, say you are sorry and let your team know that sometimes you will make mistakes. They will respect you and in turn learn that they too must swallow their pride for the sake of the team’s success. Be kind! It’s what I tell my eight-year-old and she gets it.

Myth #6

Leadership means I no longer have to learn, grow or change who I am or how I interact with others.

I suppose I could come up with something super profound for this section. In fact, I am positive there are a billion famous quotes on the matter, but at some point taking on a leadership role is a choice. The cost of leadership is “self-interest” (thanks for that, Simon Sinek!) Don’t think you are a leader simply because someone slapped a longer title on your office door. Pretty much anyone can manage people (with positive or negative results,) but a leader is someone whose followers trust in, respect, and will run alongside through the extra miles to achieve something great. If your team isn’t there yet, start by asking how you can change. You may be hanging onto a little too much self-interest, and holding your team back. You may also be pretty surprised at how your inward self-examination—and taking action on it—can alter your team’s success rate.

These are some truths about leadership that I have learned. But I’m not the only one who thinks all this. A pretty smart guy—Simon Sinek—recently wrote a book about leadership titled, “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together & Others Don’t”. And if you want a snapshot in video form (of course you do) you can watch this pretty fantastic talk about it.
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Candace R. Mitchell, Director of Digital Marketing
Candace R. Mitchell

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