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3 Leadership Myths that Might Be Holding You Back

When I first began my career many moons ago, I worked in the behavioral health arena in residential treatment programs with youth who had emotional and behavioral challenges.  I started as a direct care counselor serving youth, who had trauma histories, were receiving services from the child welfare departments, had been in psychiatric hospitals, and/or had run-ins with law enforcement. They landed in these treatment programs because they were deemed at a level of risk to themselves or others. 


Our mission was to help these youth develop healthier and safer coping strategies, to plant the seeds so they could thrive, and to keep them and everyone safe. Ultimately, we wanted to guide and support them to achieve maximize their potential. 


Within my first 5 years working in these settings, I was promoted to leadership roles and ended up overseeing a few large programs.  It is where I developed my leadership skills.  

Easily, the greatest teachers I have ever had were these kids.  The lessons they taught me both personally and professionally exceeded anything that I ever taught them. 


For instance, they could sniff out our motivations and intentions; our strengths and weaknesses, our vulnerabilities and those of us who were there for the right and others who were there for the wrong reasons. 


They, in essence, were the best evaluators of our leadership.  Our approaches had a direct connection to our leadership styles and abilities.  


Some of us emerged as strong and effective leaders and some of us looked a lot like the Bad ones. 


The same is true for your workforce.  I am not implying that they are kids in a residential treatment program however they are paying attention to you, they are looking to see how you show up, how you treat people, how you handle situations, and what conversations you avoid.  Similar to how you pay attention to your senior leaders.    


In this blog, we are going to explore 3 leadership myths that might be getting in the way and holding you back from higher levels of leadership mindset and effectiveness.     

    

Myth #1:  Leadership is only for extroverts. 


The top myth I hear amongst my clients as a leadership development and mental fitness coach is that their introversion is a barrier to being an effective leader.  Leadership effectiveness is a complex and multifaceted trait.  Introverts can be just as effective leaders as extroverts, bringing unique qualities such as deep reflection and active listening. 


In Susan Cain’s book, entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,  she argues that modern Western culture misunderstands and undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people, leading to "a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness."


Moreover, leadership effectiveness is contingent on the specific requirements of a given situation. In some contexts, introverted leaders who are more reserved and thoughtful may be equally or more effective. Leadership effectiveness depends on the ability to adapt to different situations, communicate effectively, and inspire and motivate others.

Never let your introversion be a barrier to saluting what you bring to the leadership table.  It may be exactly what is needed. 


As Simon Alexander Ong notes, “Leadership is not found in the loudest voice. It is found in an individual's ability to listen, empathize, and inspire action.”


Myth #2:  Leadership is a solo endeavor. 


One of our fundamental human needs is our need to belong; to be part of a group.  For some of us, we may prefer a small versus a large-sized group.  Regardless of how large, we all have a desire to fit in.  Our charge as a leader is to tap into that innate desire and foster the need for connection.      


Contrary to the myth of leadership being a solo endeavor, effective leaders rely on teamwork and collaboration to achieve goals.  No single individual possesses all the skills necessary for success in every aspect of leadership. Collaborating with others allows a leader to leverage the strengths of team members with complementary skill sets. By combining different expertise, a team can overcome challenges more efficiently and tackle a broader range of tasks effectively.


It has been said, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”


Myth #3:  Leadership guarantees popularity. 


One of the traps my clients have shared with me is the need to be liked.  Now yes, most of us want to be liked, especially as leaders.  Leaders can feel alone. However, if this becomes your central focus, the need to please others may override your ability to truly help your team be as effective as they can be.


I am going to say that again in a different way.  I believe your role as a leader is to help your team be as effective as they can in their roles. 


Not all leaders are universally liked, and effective leadership may involve making tough decisions that are not always popular.  These decisions are based on what is best for the organization, team, or project, even if it means facing resistance or disagreement.


In addition, leaders must hold themselves and others accountable for their actions and outcomes. This can involve addressing performance issues, implementing changes, or enforcing policies, which may not always be well-received.


According to Simon Sinek, “A boss has the title; a leader has the people.”

 

In conclusion, debunking these three prevalent myths surrounding leadership is essential for fostering effective and inclusive leadership styles. Dispelling the notion that leaders must be extroverts allows for the recognition and appreciation of diverse leadership qualities. Understanding that leadership is not a solo endeavor emphasizes the importance of collaboration, teamwork, and shared responsibility in achieving organizational success. Lastly, dismissing the myth that leadership requires popularity paves the way for authenticity and genuine connection with team members. By breaking free from these misconceptions, aspiring leaders can forge a path that is true to themselves, creating a more resilient and adaptive leadership landscape that thrives on authenticity, collaboration, and a commitment to continuous growth.


What myths are getting in your way? 


Please reach out and schedule a discovery session to share your insights.  




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