At one time, even the greatest nautical experts believed the world was flat. The result? They alway sailed near or within sight of the shoreline which limited their capacity for exploration, discovery and success. Likewise, there are 3 commonly held leadership myths that limit scores of brilliant, talented and well intended leaders from reaching the vision they desire for themselves, their people and the organizations they lead. Just like the horizon of the ocean gives the appearance of a flat earth, these 3 leadership myths can give the appearance of strong and effective leadership. But as we know, things are not always as they appear.
Most of us can relate to having a “bad boss.” I have to say that I have been extremely blessed to have only been in that situation once in my career and only for a short period of time. Unfortunately, my situation is a rare exception. The reality for many is that they work for toxic leaders a large portion of their career. Most of these bad leaders are not stupid or inept. In fact, most are smart and a few even brilliant. I also think most are well intended. While we can name historical rare exceptions, most aren’t evil, cruel bullies intentionally plotting and looking forward to how much pain and trouble they can inflict on others every day. If that’s the case, then why is it that so many leaders or “bosses” are so bad?
One reason for bad leadership, pointed out by Annie McKee and colleagues in their excellent book Becoming a Resonant Leader, is what bad leaders sincerely believe a leader should be and do. Sincere or not, when one embraces the following 3 widely held leadership myths they can destroy even the best people and cultures. Because it isn’t enough to simply point out the problem, the contrasting liberating truth for each is also pointed out:
- Myth: Smart is good enough.
- Liberating Truth: Intellect and technical knowledge are baseline and do not differentiate great leaders. Emotional and social intelligence make the difference.
- Myth: Your mood does not matter.
- Liberating Truth: Emotions are contagious, and a leader can create resonance and a climate that supports success or can spread emotions that create a dissonant, unproductive, and unhealthy climate.
- Myth: Great leaders thrive on constant pressure.Liberating Truth: Sacrifice and power stress are inherent in the leader’s role. The best leaders manage the pressure through adopting practices of renewal.
Without the limiting belief of a flat earth, who knows what possibilities may have been realized in the early days of nautical exploration. Likewise, who knows what potential would have been realized and pain avoided in the past if not for commonly held myths about leadership, in particular the 3 myths above. The good news is that any leaders past, regardless of how bad, does not equal their future.
We have plenty of good, successful leaders we can learn from as well as mounting evidence to support leadership best-practices and competencies. But a general knowing isn’t enough and knowledge isn’t power; power is individual leaders making informed decisions that leads to positive change.
Whether or not people are bought into a common myth, it still affects them to some degree. Which of the three leadership myths have affected you the most? Which liberating truth will you commit to acting on in order to serve your on best interests as well as those of the people and organizations you lead?
Please leave a comment so we can all grow in the quest for better leadership.