There’s a bunch of endless misconceptions about leadership most people in the workplace aren’t even aware of. These are things nobody is telling you about leadership that you will surely get to know and experience the day the mantle falls on you.
Leaders are thought to be born and not made, but that’s not to say that they couldn’t be cultivated and shaped through the years to understand, empathize and connect with people in a way that moves mountains.
Leadership is different for everyone and is appreciated in different ways by different people. And leadership is not for everyone, either.
Just because you could lead, doesn’t mean you should. Some people are meant for certain things. Forcing it on yourself or letting someone else force leadership on you means that you will struggle with getting your employees or subordinates to respect you.
If you run a fast-growing company and have a leadership team or you are considering stepping into a more active leadership role yourself, there are some things you need to consider in order to make the most of your leadership experience for everyone involved.
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Here’s what your leadership team isn’t tell you about leadership. Use these insights to help you decide if leadership is for you or if you need to reorganize your leadership team to get the best results.
What Nobody is Telling You about Leadership
Table of Contents
You Can’t Put a Square Peg in a Round Hole: Leadership is about Fit
While the phrase, “a good fit” is thrown around in corporate offices and is used as an easy excuse to terminate an employee without cause, it is a telling phrase that can provide a lot of insight for leaders and those they lead.
Leaders need to be a good fit for the people they oversee.
Whether you run a flat organization where everyone gets to be the visionary or you run a traditional corporate ladder business, being a good fit for a leadership role is imperative.
What does it mean to be a good fit in corporate leadership?
Being a good fit in corporate leadership means being able to communicate your thoughts, feelings, ideas, complaints, and needs in a way that engages people and excites them to go over the cliff with you, should the need arise. But your leadership team wants you to know that they need to work on that piece.
Communication skills don’t come naturally to a lot of people and even those in charge could use a good update on their communication abilities from time to time.
Leaders don’t stay as good leaders for a long time if they don’t work on themselves.
If you don’t want to be a leader that sucks, give your employees at every level an opportunity to improve their communication skills and provide the space for them to engage with one another in a way that is not only effective, but profitable for your business.
If your leaders are not a good fit and don’t have the right communication skills, you’ll quickly see how things can fall apart. It will be so obvious that you won’t need to ask what happens when there’s lack of leadership in the workplace.
A good way to think of leadership is to think of it as an idea, rather than a title. Ineffective leaders see it only from the position of title.
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Managers have titles. Leaders can have many titles, but they aren’t focused on just one thing the way a traditional manager might. Managers have deliverables, but leaders have to create and hold space for people.
If your leaders are really managers or vice versa, you won’t get the results you want from your employees. People need to be in the right role for them.
Leaders Are Afraid: There’s No Manual for How to Do This
Leaders have valid fears just like you do because there’s no foolproof template for effective leadership. But it doesn’t mean that these fears can’t be overcome.
If there’s one thing your leadership team wants you to know (or if you are thinking about jumping into a leadership role yourself and you are wondering what the real deal is with leadership), it’s that you can’t half-ass leadership. It’s all or nothing.
Leaders need to be on all of the time for the people in their charge. You can always tell when a leader is dropping the ball because people are worn down, irritated, and lackluster. They aren’t looking for idealism, but they do need someone to stand in front of them and say that everything is going to work out.
One huge sign of a good leader is your ability to work tirelessly to achieve a specific goal.
Natural leaders gravitate toward helping build people up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to do that with time and practice.
However, leaders around the world will tell you that leadership is exhausting and thankless. But they do it, nonetheless because of what it offers employees and teams. It’s worth draining yourself to help others.
Leaders are afraid they are doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, and making the wrong decisions just like the rest of the people in the office. But the difference between leaders and those who follow them is that they have the courage to stand up in the first place.
Leaders Want You to Know that They Are Just People
There seems to be some unwritten rule that if you are going to be a leader that you can’t make mistakes. You are the visionary, after all, and people look up to you for guidance and support.
That’s a lot of pressure. An invalid opinion.
If you have a leadership team, they need you to know they are only human. They are going to make mistakes. They are going to make the wrong choice. But a good leader will learn from those mistakes and find ways to make better, more informed choices.
What does it take to be an effective leader? When you are working toward becoming an effective leader, give yourself the time and space to make mistakes. You’ll learn more from falling on your face than you ever would getting it right 100% of the time.
While you die a little each time things fall apart, if you come back from that setback with new insight and information about the event or situation, you are better for it. The kind of leadership skill you will learn thereafter can’t even be learnt in Harvard Business School. Most of the time, this is why leaders don’t learn from success.
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Leadership is also about being transparent. That’s not to say that you need to share the details of your doctor’s appointment with your staff, but share your fears for the future, joys in the moment, and celebrate the wins when you have them. Be human. Being human as a leader is what people crave the most right now. Let your leaders be human. Your company will be better for it.
Leaders Don’t Have All the Answers
If there’s one big misconception that people think and believe about leaders, it is that they should have all of the answers. Here’s something you don’t know about leadership. Great leaders don’t have all the answers and they don’t even try to.
Begrudged employees wonder why so-and-so is in a leadership position when they don’t even know about a certain topic or element of the business, but haters gonna hate.
Leadership is also about admitting when you are wrong, when you don’t know, and committing to finding out. None of this is new, even if it all feels new to you, leaders can find the information they need if they are willing to look for it.
If you are really passionate about doing all it takes to build an effective team, then you must be ready to use your team to help you solve problems. Nobody said you needed all of the answers, even though it feels like people are saying that all the time.
Leaders are allowed to be wrong. It’s not the ideas that people buy into, it’s the people selling them.
If your leadership team is struggling to connect with their employees or teams, ask them to be more open and honest with their decision-making processes. Include people where possible and ask for feedback.
Collect a 360 degree view of what is going on in your company. It goes a long way to reminding employees that everyone is in this thing together and that the answers to problems can be found together.
Leaders just have to encourage people to participate; they don’t need to supply those answers. In fact, a good number of effective leaders we know lead with questions while their employees supply the answers.
Leaders Also Want to Feel Safe
One striking thing nobody ever told you about leadership is that leaders also want to feel safe.
Being a leader is hard work. Being in charge of a leadership team is a harder work. Everyone is trying to figure things out as they go. When things become too routine and mundane, productivity slips and engagement drop.
In a situation like that, it’s the leader’s job to keep things interesting and keep people moving toward productivity. But they can’t do it alone. If you have leadership teams in your charge, you also have to work to engage them and ensure they are fulfilling the mission, vision and living by the values of the company.
Sometimes, you might need to practically show them how to engage prospects and convert them into paying customers without doing anything silly that will make the prospect slam the call on you.
Empowerment comes from within the company, not outside of it.
What does it take to empower your employees as a great leader? It’s simple. Give your employees and their leaders the gift of autonomy and encourage them to be empowered in their roles.
Everyone benefits when we recognize that we’re just humans trying to work together to create something in the world. There are no rules, and if you are living by strict rules, ask yourself why that is necessary anymore?
Isn’t collaboration and collective agreement better than checking boxes and crossing the t’s in formation? Leaders make people feel safe. But they need to feel safe themselves.
Leaders need to know that they have someone or somewhere to turn when they feel unsure. There is so much pressure on leadership teams to be a shining example of what is possible that we forget that they also need support, encouragement and advice.
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None of us are immune to what it means to be human and humans are riddled with fear, anxiety, and self-confidence issues, even if you can’t see it. Leaders, no matter how confident, also need to find sources of confidence and inspiration in their world.
As the person in charge of the leadership team or company, remember that no one does this alone. Nor should they have to.
Are these things nobody ever told you about leadership strange to you? What do you think is the most difficult part of being a leader? And what effort do you have in place to help you become more human as a leader? Answering these questions will help your leadership team achieve a huge result.