Truth and Lies in Leadership
by Dr. Sara Baker
A leadership enthusiast, website and elearning developer, and believer that everyone deserves a workplace that builds and supports its people.
Don't wait for someone else to be the positive force of leadership that brings good to the world, do it yourself!
The truth of leadership can be shockingly different from what we anticipate before we become leaders. The lies of leadership may not be recognizable at first glance, but once you are in the fire, they become glaringly evident.
Before you become a leader, it all seems so easy - you look at your boss and you think, "I could do that!" You see every misstep he makes and how it affects you and the others on your team and you think to yourself, "I could do better than that!"
Or maybe you have known from early on that you wanted to be the boss, you want to help others be productive in a positive workplace. Or maybe you just get frustrated with what you view as incompetence and you would rather make the decisions and lead the team yourself.
Whatever has landed you in leadership, you are here now. And now, it seems, is a good time for some real talk about leadership.
Not everything in leadership is as it seems. Let's start with the lies in leadership and then we'll circle back to the truth.
Leadership Lie #1: Leadership is easy.
The Truth: Leadership isn't easy, but it can be unbelievably rewarding.
Leadership is not easy. But don't let this one dissuade you from your path as a leader. Many challenges will attack you as you lead a team in achieving goals. However, the moments of deep satisfaction become more frequent as you grow as a leader.
As your leadership style transforms into your own personal, authentic leadership approach, you become a stronger version of you and you feel the "rightness" of positive leadership.
Fed by your passion for improving and developing, you seek out new knowledge on the leadership actions that can propel your team into greatness.
You find ways to incorporate vision into your regular communications with your team.
The difficult decisions become easier as you find your courage and boldly make decisions that matter.
You spend time understanding what empowering your team looks like for you on a daily basis and then you make that vision of empowerment and engagement a reality.
Perhaps the origins of this lie of easy leadership can be traced to the old Classical Management Theory that proposes there is one perfect way to complete a task and managers need only provide for the physical and monetary needs of employees.
In the past when things moved slower bosses had time to gather information. A boss could analyze potential paths and create an ideal process on his own. Compared to leadership of today, that may indeed have seemed easier.
As a leader today, you do not only need to provide adequate compensation and an acceptable workspace. You also identify your team member's strengths and coach them on how to capitalize on those strengths to excel. Guiding your team in problem-solving, you empower and develop those around you. You show courage in the face of obstacles and challenges.
The job is broader than it used to be, but the days that you leave work after a problem is solved, a teammate excels, or you exceed your department goals, you just smile to yourself and think "THAT'S what I'm talking about!"
Leadership Lie #2: Leadership is all about making more money.
The Truth: The extra money is nice, but it's not enough to compensate if you don't love leadership.
If you become a leader solely so that you can earn a higher salary, then I encourage you to research higher-paying individual contributor jobs that are available.
If you don't enjoy leadership in some capacity and take pleasure in developing others, meeting challenging goals or leading teams through tough straits, then you are not doing yourself or your team members any favors by staying in leadership.
With the challenges that come with constant change and the need for steady, positive leadership, you need to be able to pull some type of satisfaction and joy from the accomplishments of your team. Otherwise, you are setting yourself and your team up for a miserable experience.
Toxicity in the workplace often stems from leaders who step into leadership positions, not because they are good leaders, but solely because they want to make more money. Don't get me wrong, the increased salary is nice. BUT, the pay is higher for a reason: the job is more demanding.
Be a leader and, by all means, cash the paycheck. But be sure to engage in leadership actions that support your team in positively attaining goals. Don't bully, shame, harass or belittle your team. Be more than a boss, be a leader.
Leadership Lie #3: As the leader, you'll be able to fix everything, finally!
The Truth: Fix as much as you possibly can, lead a productive team and create a more enjoyable life for you and your team - it's enough.
As much as I would like to say this one is true, it isn't.
The reality of any leadership position carries a grey cloud of "others" who are higher up the chain and ultimately limit the scope of the decisions that you can actually make.
"Oh, but not if I am the CEO", you might say. But you'd be wrong.
In any position, there are always outside forces that limit or control the improvements you can make. It may be your supervisor if you are a middle-level leader, or it may be a state agency that sets guidelines for what your organization must do and what your organization cannot do.
Regardless of who the limiting factor is, you will never be the ultimate decision-maker with complete control of every decision.
The harsh truth begs to be heard - you CAN control a great deal, make many strong decisions and you CAN absolutely make your team and your workplace a more positive place.
But, you will never be able to make it perfect.
There is nothing perfect, this side of heaven, but still do your very best.
Study, learn, adapt, implement improvements, and leave your workplace, and this world, better for having experienced your leadership.
The lies about leadership do not negate the positivity of its truths.
Leadership is difficult, it is messy.
It is a journey that requires all travelers to muck through the mud.
But the smiles of satisfaction, the connections with others, the exhaustion of a job well done and a reward justly earned makes it worth it.
Embrace the truth of leadership.
Join the movement, become a leadership reformer today!
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