Search the word “leadership” online, there are over 300,000,000 results on Google and 125,000,000 on Bing.com. There is a lot of obvious advice out there about what are good and effective leadership traits but there is no general – all-encompassing leadership model or definition. Since there is not all encompassing model or definition, here is my favorite definition of leadership – to motivate a group of people to accomplish an end goal. Nice and simple, right?
In a general sense it is, but reality is, it is not that simple. Leadership is defined differently by each person and that subsequently comes with “myths”. Let’s break down some of those traditional leadership myths.
You Need THE Title
Pish-Posh! You don’t have to be head of your company to be a leader. It is was highly reported that Dick Chaney former Vice President was really the leader and driving force behind George W Bush’s Presidency. Many – many married couples will tell you the wife actually runs the home although that is not the traditional model one thinks of as the head of household. When married men say “You have to ask the boss!” and they are talking about their wives. Leadership Myth – BUSTED!
There’s Only One Direction
Malarky! A leader does not have to have a clear direction – not to be confused with vision –to achieve the goal. For instance, a leader knows what they want, but they may not know exactly how to get there. Think of Dr. King, he knew exactly what he wanted to achieve but he didn’t know how to get there. He even spoke about not being around long enough to get to the goal. He had a vision (and Dream) but not a clear direction. Would non-violence protest really work? Hindsight is 20/20 – we see that it did but at the time Dr. King had his doubts.
So how does a leader in today’s business world get direction? They talk to their teams of course. They speak to everyone from the front line workers to the white collar workers. They get a total perspective of the team’s ability and then they can better provide direction to reach the vision. They consider external forces – consumer market trends – technology – legislation, etc. Clear Direction Leadership Myth – BUSTED!
You’ve Gotta Be a Tough Guy/Gal
Baloney! Do you know who Marissa Mayer is? She’s the newest CEO of Yahoo!, came over from Google, and began firing people left and right upon arrival. She even fired someone while they were on vacation! The Iron Lady was in effect! Employees were scared and convinced that it was just a matter of time before she fired anyone who was there before she arrived. Recently, she’s been all over the news because she cut out all the work from home perks for all Yahoo! employees.
As an HR professional I understand the need to send a strong message. Revoking telecommuting benefits is better than firing someone while on vacation. In HR, you have to terminate people and sometimes you have to terminate people to set a tone. I call them spectacle terminations (sometimes we MUST send a powerful message): theft, violence, drug abuse, or sexual harassment/discrimination. I believe there are ways to show control without being ruthless; although ruthlessness is effective too.
For instance, recently I was watching “Undercover Boss” – I’ma HR nerd; I love all things HR improvement – anyway, I’m watching this episode and the President and CEO of “Moe’s Southwest Grill” Paul Damico goes undercover as a front end server at one of his restaurants in Atlanta GA. The shift manager was a young 19 year old guy who believed in authoritative leadership. He said things like “I’m only going to show you this once if you don’t get it, you are on your own, get someone else to show you” and “Are you stupid or something why can’t you do this?” He even said “I’m king ding-a-ling in this bitch!”
The CEO could have blown cover and fired that dude right then. But he didn’t. He didn’t even fire him the next day. And at the end of the show when he revealed himself to the employees that he met earlier, he still did not fire the guy. He offered him training and a second chance. It was a teachable moment. Now that’s leadership. Ruthless Leadership Style – BUSTED!
What Leadership Should Encompass
When you browse through your leadership models, very seldom do you see words like empathize or sympathize. But that’s exactly what I’m suggesting to you, HUMANIZE your leadership style and challenge traditional stereotypes. Take the road less traveled. Leadership is not a one stop shop, there are all sorts of styles.
Actually, that’s another myth – One Size Fits All.
Depending upon your organizational culture and goals you may have to adjust your style. Don’t be afraid to bust some leadership myths of your own!
Now, don’t just stand there Bust a MOVE!