Too often, people find themselves leading others without the right experience or training. And too often, those same people assume they can and will figure it out as they go along. However, a lot of damage can be done to employees and the business while they are figuring it out.
Some completely upside-down business beliefs have incredible staying power, and continue to blur the lines for those seeking to understand and take on the role of a real leader. The following are four common leadership myths that are surprisingly alive and well in the workplace today.
Myth 1: If you are a star performer, you will be a star leader.
From the day we were born, all the applause has been about “What I have done well,” and not, “What we have done well.” The skills, attributes and motivations required to lead people successfully are entirely opposite from those required to be a successful individual contributor. If the roles and skills weren’t so opposite, it would be a walk in the park for someone to move seamlessly from being a great violin player to being a great conductor. The move to leading others is an emotional and intellectual seismic shift that will quickly separate the effective leaders from ineffective ones. Making the transition from being an individual contributor to being a leader can seem as difficult as swimming from New York to London alone, without a life jacket.
Myth 2: Emotions should be left outside the workplace.
Leading people is messy. People are unpredictable. Each person is unique. Life is full of triumphs and tragedies, which can happen to any of us at any time. We cannot predict surprises. Leaders have to be ready for anything. Like it or not, every person brings their emotions to work.
People are 24-hour thinking, feeling creatures. They can, and often do, behave differently from our preconceived perceptions and assumptions about them. Our values drive our decisions, which generate emotions that often appear in our behaviors. Emotions are contagious; we catch emotions more quickly than we catch a cold. We all bring our 24-hour, lifelong selves into work, like it or not.
Myth 3: Expect your people to get on board for change from the top.
The painful truth is that change efforts fail in every organization about 70 percent of the time, and for some, that’s on a good day. The status quo has a powerful stranglehold on people and organizations. We think and say we are open to new ideas and changes, but it is often not true.
The number one reason change efforts fail is because people resist them. That’s because our life experiences have shown us that too many people with authority over our work lives make lousy decisions based on lousy information and, in turn, end up with lousy results.
Myth 4: Being smart or well educated is all that matters.
Not even close. It is not enough to be smart. Emotional intelligence matters a heck of a lot more than book education, particularly if you want to have healthy and productive relationships. Ineffective leaders can potentially create a lot of damage. Effective leaders can accomplish incredible feats with the help of their followers.
If no one is following you, you aren’t truly leading. You can manage all kinds of tasks that might involve schedules, money, projects and budgets, and yet, everything you do with your staff and other stakeholders involves relationships. How well those relationships work has a lot to do with how much trust is at the center of them.
Leading well is both an art and a science. Effective leaders know leadership is a continuous, learning journey. There are lots of ways to learn how to lead well, and learning from these common myths about leadership is just one place to start.