Scary Leadership Myths: Part 1

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Engaged Leadership

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The process of stepping into a leadership role or even participating in a leadership development program can feel overwhelming. Ingrained in the very nature of leadership is an element of being “on display,” where your every failure or weakness is up for scrutiny. This knowledge can paralyze leaders and create walls that prevent them from growing, which ultimately means letting themselves become vulnerable and open to advice and healthy growth. 

The truth is, the beauty of great leadership lies in the willingness to be vulnerable, being truly open to one’s weakness and therefore allowing you to face, understand and dramatically improve when facing challenges that previously felt impossible.

Here are a few “scary” myths we tell ourselves about leadership and why we don’t have to believe them: 

Leadership Myth: Decisions have to be all or nothing.

Many leaders believe that problems with gray areas are few and far between. This crops up often as leaders try to determine how they’re going to lead. They give themselves a binary choice of “I can either be friendly with my team to make myself relatable, or I have to be distant from my team in order to establish my authority.” 

Experienced leaders will tell you that the best answer to this question is “yes, and.” These leaders are focused more on finding integrated ways to make decisions rather than an all-or-nothing perspective.  

This problem can crop up in a myriad of situations – a leader who is dealing with the pressure of too much work in too little time i.e. every single leader ever – has the tendency to drop into fear and anxiety about their ability to be successful, around the work at hand and their own leadership. Every task and assignment begins to look and feel like yet another test where they will succeed or fail. This attitude erases the opportunity for nuance and for the understanding that small choices can often be adjusted, tweaked, or even reversed. 

Mature leaders know that virtually every work and life challenge involves making adjustments and shifts along the way and they recognize that imperfection isn’t a sign of incompetence, but rather how most complex human endeavors work.  

Leadership Myth: Conflict means that I’m failing 

When you approach conflict with a closed fist and fear clouding every move you make, you’re bound to fail. But conflict in and of itself doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems. At EngagedLeadership, we love to work with leaders as they discover that conflict handled correctly is one of the healthiest things you can experience. Pushback, questioning your plans, and challenging your perspective on conflict indicates that on many levels, your team feels comfortable enough with your leadership and relationship to voice concerns and try to seek solutions. When you approach conflict with an open hand and the right tools, you’ll become less determined to “win” every conflict you face and more interested in viewing it as a growth opportunity for everyone involved. It is actually a fertile ground where relationships are strengthened and trust is built. 

Decision-making and conflict are two of the most pressing issues that leaders face. These topics are crucial to your success as a leader, but that doesn’t mean they have to paralyze you with fear. Try out some new approaches to these scary elements of leadership and see how they make an impact.

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