Leadership has become a topic of much discussion over the last decade. This Is due in part to the massive growth in social media coupled with a societal desire to question previously accepted norms.
For all the leadership advice floating around out there, and there is no shortage, there’s so much that no one will ever tell you!
The truth is that a great deal of leadership can really only be learned by hands-on practice. That is… you have to shovel the shit before you get good at it!
Every leadership situation is unique, so you’ll only ever truly understand how to be the specific leader you need to be once you’re in that situation a few times.
That being said, you can learn a lot of the basics of leadership and understand what it means to be a leader in general. That way, you’ll have the information and skills needed to adapt to your unique situation when the time comes.
This applies to any area of expertise. Whether you are pulling wrenches or pushing pens, good leaders exist and learn skills from every experience.
But don’t be swept up by the myths and fallacies that are so popular in leadership books or things spouted by leadership “experts”! <= I love these guys…
Below are a few cold, hard truths you need to wrap your head around if you want to be a great leader:
Leadership Myth #1 – Treat Others the Way YOU Want to Be Treated
It’s that age old classic from the Bible, “Do unto others as you’d have them do to you.”
You want people to be open and honest with you, so you go out of your way to do so with them. You want them to feel comfortable giving you feedback or critiques, so you do that with them. You like it when people get straight to the point, so you’re blunt with them.
Then, over time, you find yourself wondering why your leadership style isn’t working so well. After all, you’re treating them the way you want to be treated, and still that “fairness” isn’t getting the results you want! Why not?
Simple: you’re treating them the way YOU want to be treated. Not the way THEY want to be treated.
Maybe not everyone likes it when their leader or manager is so blunt. Maybe they wilt under criticism rather than flourish the way you do. Maybe they don’t need honesty and openness; what they need is direction and a guiding hand, some compassion or even finding an alternate way to deliver the message.
To be a good leader, find out how people want to be treated, and then treat them that way. That’s the real meaning of “do unto others as you’d have them do to you”—you want them to treat you the way you want to be treated, so do the same and treat them the way they want to be treated.
Leadership Myth #2 – Fake It Until You Make It
While many experts are firm believers in “faking it until you make it”, this style of approach always has its limitations.
There is a certain level of deceit in this approach; after all, you’re pretending like you’re more skilled or competent in an area where you have little skill or competence. How do you think the people under your leadership will respond when they find out it’s all but just a sham?
I have watched guys do whatever it takes to pad out a resume to make themselves look good, but when it came time to use the skills they had been trained to do, they simply couldn’t do it.
Instead of “faking it until you make it”, be prepared!
If you know you lack in certain areas, find people who have the skills that will complement yours. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Invest in training and education to help you develop those skills, but then ensure you master them. Leadership skills are perishable just like any other.
Be honest with the people on your team and make sure they are aware of your limitations—it’s an important part of being “human”, the #1 ingredient in good leadership.
Don’t pretend to be more than you are or know more than you do. That just increases the chance that your lack of knowledge or expertise leads to a spectacular failure!
It is better to be vulnerable and develop the ability to build great teams with the best people for the job.
The Ends Don’t Make Up for the Means
Some people take the “All’s well that ends well” approach to their leadership style. Basically, as long as the outcome is good—the project was a success, team members end up satisfied with their performance, or a profit was made—the methods used to obtain those results were “acceptable”. Perhaps not good, but certainly nothing to regret.
Well, that’s not a good way of looking at things!
Just because you obtained a favorable outcome, that doesn’t mean you went about things the right way. You can succeed based on sheer luck, or you simply happened to fail in the right direction.
Don’t only look at the success of your project; make sure to also look at how you obtained that success. Evaluate every aspect of the process, with the focus specifically on the “how” of the success. Make sure that you’re always looking for the bugs and kinks to iron out so you can do better the next time around.
Be Willing to Look on the Negative Side
We all want to “look on the bright side” and “foster a positive attitude” in the workplace. After all, that’s how employees flourish and we have positive work environment, right?
Yes, that’s true, but sometimes (more often than not, in fact), being able to think negatively can help to ensure your survival!
If all you’re doing is looking on the bright side and having a positive attitude, you’re basically deluding yourself into believing that everything is perfect and upbeat.
Excessive positive thinking will help you con yourself into the mindset of “this is just a rough patch, but we’ll get through it”. Hard truth: you may not always get through it!
That doesn’t mean you should dive deep into the negative and wallow. Nothing gets done that way, either!
Instead, try to bring the best of both worlds together. Focus on that positive attitude and outlook, and use it to keep you upbeat. But bring in the negative thinking, too, the mindset of “preparing for the worst”.
Just like you get home, health, and car insurance “just in case”, you need to start thinking about ways that things can go bad and making preparations to deal with them. Stop dismissing negativity as harmful; instead, use it as an alternative perspective that can help you see things from another angle and be ready for anything!
I have seen too many people far too hungry to rise in power, yet they lack leadership and courage. We have all seen them. If you truly want to lead people, because you are surrounded by amazing individuals who you can see would be an extraordinary team, then make sure you do so in the most effective way possible.
Lead with kindness and compassion, master your craft, be ethical in your approach and examine all sides of your processes. If you can do that, there is nothing that can stop you.