Many leaders operate from half-truths or outright misconceptions about leadership. Here are more examples, adding to our prior post, “10 Leadership Myths and Half-Truths.”
Half-Truth: Leaders Hire the Most Competent People
Yes, leaders hire for competencies and skills, but equally important is to hire and promote people with character, emotional intelligence, and cultural fit. We call it head and heart. Lynn Easterling, Senior Director, Worldwide Operations, Legal Services at Cisco, told us, “I can teach the hard skills, but I can’t teach good character or good relational skills.”
Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett said, “I look for three things in hiring people. The first is personal integrity, the second is intelligence, and the third is high energy level. But if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”
Leaders hire for head and heart.
Half-Truth: Leaders Must Have a Vision
Indeed, leaders must be able to synthesize a vision that inspires people to make deep commitments to their shared endeavor. But the vision should be deeply felt, and perhaps expressed, by all the people. Leaders should elicit a shared vision through a collaborative process.
Leadership authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner say, “What people really want to hear is not the leader’s vision. They want to hear about their own aspirations. They want to hear how their dreams will come true and their hopes will be fulfilled. … The very best leaders understand that their key task is inspiring a shared vision.”
Leaders elicit a shared vision.
Leadership Derailers Assessment
Take this assessment to identify what’s inhibiting your leadership effectiveness. It will help you develop self-awareness and identify ways to improve your leadership.
Half-Truth: Leaders Should Be Authentic
Indeed, leaders should understand their personality profile and be authentic. But great leaders know they must also get out of the comfort zone of their personal leadership style at times, flexing between the hard and soft edges of leadership, depending on the circumstances and the people involved. Great leaders never abandon their authenticity or integrity, but they vary their leadership style as necessary.
Leaders flex between the hard and soft edges of leadership, but always anchored to the shared values.
Half-Truth: Leaders Demand Technical Excellence from Their People
Technical expertise is only one dimension of what great leaders seek in their colleagues. Great leaders know that a culture of character and high-performance is essential for great endeavors. So, great leaders empower their colleagues through the shared values with a license to lead as stewards of a high-performance culture of character.
Leadership is all about trusteeship.
Half-Truth: Leaders Align the Organization to Do What the Leader Wants
This might work if the leader were always right. Unfortunately, leaders are far from perfect. Organizations must be aligned throughout to achieve peak performance, but alignment by edict from the corner office results in compliance without commitment. True alignment is a collaborative effort, a give-and-take of dialogue, listening, explaining, drafting, and redrafting until goals, strategies, and actions plans are clear to all. (See our article, “How to Align Your Organization for Peak Performance.”)
Alignment is a collaborative leadership process.
When organizations aren’t aligned, it can reduce performance dramatically and cause frustration and dysfunction. With this Alignment Scorecard, you can assess your organization’s level of alignment and make plans for improving it.
What half-truths have sabotaged leadership in your experience?
Tools for You
- Leadership Derailers Assessment to help you identify what’s inhibiting your leadership effectiveness
- Personal Values Exercise to help you determine and clarify what’s most important to you
- Alignment Scorecard to help you assess your organization’s level of alignment
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Gregg Vanourek and Bob Vanourek are leadership practitioners, teachers, and award-winning authors (and son and father). They are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a winner of the International Book Awards. Check out their Leadership Derailers Assessment or get their monthly newsletter. If you found value in this, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps!