In the autumn edition of Professional Manager, the Chartered Management Institute’s CEO, Ann Francke, passionately advocated that management is in desperate need of an overhaul!
On this New Year’s Eve, with new opportunities and challenges beckoning, I add to her voice by asking us all to bust these leadership myths in 2014!
My top ten myths for busting wide open would be these:
1. There is a recognisable pattern to leaders and leadership. So many ‘gurus’ and academic institutes advocate their theory and their model. The simple truth is this … as people we are all different … and different folks take different strokes!
2. You can be a good leader without getting good results. However you judge these, the whole point of great leadership is that it leads to great outputs, outcomes, or impact for the customer/client/consumer. If this is not happening, how good is your leadership?
3. Good leaders don’t cause stress! Good leaders have a compelling vision; lead with love and care; and, will drive with purpose! For some, this will be stressful; however beautifully the purpose is positioned!
4. Leadership can be taught – it’s easy! Leadership skills and knowledge can certainly be taught. How they are applied is another matter altogether! As anyone who has ever led will advise that it is most certainly not always easy! The other critical part for me that can’t be taught is how it feels to make decisions! Making decisions as a leader is often about a choice of the lesser of two evils. It’s at this point that your values come into major focus!
5. Leadership relies on position and resides at the top of an organisation. Anyone who believes this clearly doesn’t understand leadership. Leaders are required at all levels of an organisation and a key function of all leaders is to grow more leaders – regularly and consistently!
6. Great leaders are charismatic and visionary. Some great leaders have been just that. For the most part, however, great leaders are those that are truly effective! They are those leaders who best connect, engage, serve, lead and learn with their teams and collaborate widely with their wider stakeholders.
7. Great organisations bring in new leaders from outside. A core focus of great leadership is that it helps to grow new leaders – within the organisation, in the ‘here and now’ and for the future. If an organisation’s leadership practice has been otherwise, then it maybe requires an injection of fresh impetus as a catalyst for future growth.
8. Leaders must have expert knowledge. Leaders need to be able to do just that – lead – often across multi-faceted environments! This is why leaders must continuously learn. However, they do not need to be experts in the various fields of experience they lead – they largely need to know how best to utilise the talents of those that are the experts.
9. Leaders are rare. This is one of the most perpetuated myths of all. Rather than rare, leaders are everywhere! Often though, they are not leading as effectively as they might. Skills and knowledge development, good coaching and mentoring, and an internal policy on growing leaders will soon begin to put that right!
10. Leaders must be in control. Of all the myths, this is the one for me that needs busting open the most! Organisational hierarchies still seem to be locked into a predominant command and control culture … and, in line with Ann Francke’s perspective, micro-management still abounds. If you don’t believe me, just watch an episode of ‘Inside Gatwick’ to see it fully revealed in all its splendour … or not, as the case may be!
Commanding and controlling styles of leadership have a purpose on occasion. They might well deliver short-term gain … though often at a cost to employees’ mental and physical health. The current debate in the UK over low productivity levels bears direct correlation to this leadership approach. It is not for the long-term benefit for all – leaders, staff and other stakeholders.
So, to overhaul management and to build much more effective leadership, we need to bust these myths! If we confront and learn from failures, without losing sight of purpose; build a culture of unwavering self-discipline, where people do what they say they will do, linked to that purpose; and consistently apply deep and unchanging core values, 2014 will be the year that this is achieved … one step at a time!
What steps will you take to bust these myths?