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7 Leadership Lies You Need to Stop Believing

We live in an age that seeks quick fixes and easy answers. Sometimes leaders abdicate their thinking to others and accept “prevailing wisdom,” which is often an oxymoron.

Mark Sanborn

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I grew up, like most, accepting many things at face value. It wasn’t until I started giving important issues like leadership a second and third thought that I realised I’d been believing what turned out to be some serious leadership myths.

Here are seven leadership lies and why they simply aren’t true:

1. “All managers are leaders.” Truth: some managers can lead and others don’t or cannot. Management is a subset of leadership, not its equivalent.

Managers are good at setting up, monitoring and maintaining systems and processes. They hire people. But if they can’t bring out better performance in people and take the organisation beyond where it is, they aren’t leading.

Leadership always involves change, improvement and growth.

2. “Some are born leaders.” Truth: even someone with a predisposition to lead must learn the skills of leadership.

A young person who is 6’6″ might have the predisposition to play basketball, but he or she still needs to learn the skills before they can play successfully.

Leadership might be more latent in some than others – and you can’t always tell – so focus on what is developing someone’s behaviours, not their biological background.

3. “Leaders always have the right answers.” Truth: leaders ask the right questions and know where to find the best answers.

If your people always come to you for answers, you’re stunting their ability to think. And if everyone in your company keeps asking the same questions, I assure you, you’re not that innovative.

Without questioning and curiosity, leaders simply manage by using familiar answers long after the marketplace has started asking different questions.

It isn’t about knowing the answers as much as it is about knowing who to ask and where to look.

4. “You need a title to lead.” Truth: to lead you only need to know when it is appropriate to do so and how to do it.

When I stay at a hotel, the majority of people I encounter – from the front desk to housekeeping to foodservice – have no formal title or power over people, yet they are responsible for creating my experience there – good or bad.

Good staff willing to take the lead are as important (and probably more) than the official leaders at the top.

Leadership is about making things better, and the best organisations teach everyone to take responsibility for leading.

5. “Leaders are focused.” Truth: Leaders create a shared focus.

If your team isn’t focused, it doesn’t matter how focused you are on doing what matters. A manager is usually focused, but a leader creates shared focus and doesn’t waste resources by allowing team members to do work that doesn’t matter.

Being focused is about self-responsibility and discipline.

Creating shared focus is about engaging others in the leadership agenda and making it specific to their jobs.

6. “Leadership is about ambition.” Truth: leadership is about the greater good.

There’s nothing wrong with ambition, but it primarily serves the ambitious. If what you’re doing serves only you, you almost certainly aren’t leading.

When others are served better as well – customers, colleagues, vendors, the community – that is the sign of effective leadership.

7. “Anyone can lead.” Truth: Nobody can lead if they lack the desire to do so.

You can’t make people lead any more than you can make a horse drink once you’ve led it to water. Desire is the sine qua non of effective leadership.

And you, Mr. or Ms. Leader, cannot become better without the same desire. I’ve observed that nobody improves by accident. Getting better is about getting past the common thinking, lies and misconceptions and digging for wisdom. Once you know the truth, it can set you free and make you a better leader.

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Video: 5 Unusual Leadership Lessons. Click Here

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Mark Sanborn is an author, speaker and president of Sanborn & Associates Inc., a leadership development firm based in Lonetree, Colo. His clients have included Cisco, McDonalds, Toyota and FedEx. He is author of eight books including the latest: Fred 2.0: New Ideas On How to Keep Delivering Extraordinary Results (Tyndale, 2013).

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3 Tips For Succeeding After You Fail

Failure is pretty much inevitable. What comes afterward is a choice.

Tor Constantino

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If you’re an entrepreneur, you will fail. It might not be a complete meltdown, but you will experience a failure of some aspect of your venture at some point.

My first business failure occurred during my mid-20s. I tried to launch a product I invented, which was a durable, pocket-size strap that carried different kinds of recreational sports gear.

After determining the market need and securing piece-work manufacturing, as well as retail packaging complete with trademarked logo, I had several thousand units in hand.

Distribution was, ultimately, the one trick I couldn’t turn and ended in failure. I tried everything I could think of. I engaged several independent and sporting goods retail chains that weren’t interested in the hassle of adding a single-product vendor to their ops management systems.

I offered to give hundreds of units away to dozens of specialty ski, skateboard and inline skating shops on consignment to “seed the market” but was rejected. They all said my product undercut higher-margin competing products.

I tried to contract with different retail brokers to add my product to their sell-in portfolios, but was rejected three times due to the low-price point for my product and limited margin potential.

Related: Flourishing Through Failure And Finding Fortune

The greatest success I had was when I broke even for a catalog ad I purchased in a Sharper Image-type printed publication.

Mind you, this was all pre-Google, Amazon, PayPal or eBay when ecommerce was still finding its way on the Interwebs. However, my lack of offline success drove me to have a developer build my own ecommerce website (at great expense at the time) with an incredibly clunky, pricey payment system managed by Visa.

Sad to say, I shuttered the website after six months due to lack of sales and lack of traffic caused by the overall lack of consumer confidence in the whole “internet spending thing” at the time. During the three-year span of this odyssey from my initial concept to collapse, I had spent countless hours and in excess of $40,000 trying to convert my vision into a viable venture.

As a 20-something kid, I felt like a complete failure. I was afraid to ever try again, but eventually I did – several times – and had success. Fast forward 20 years and here’s what I would share with the failed entrepreneur I was back then.

Failure is painful but not fatal

Failure is not final, fatal nor forever. I had a great mentor who completely re-framed my thinking regarding failure when he told me:

“If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”

That phrase has been a touchstone through tough times during my subsequent entrepreneurial endeavours.

Related: Why, When You Fail, You Should ‘Fail Forward’

Fail faster

Back then I thought I had to exhaust all my distribution options, which took a significant amount of time and resources, because I didn’t want to look back in 20 years and say “what if?”

In retrospect, I’m glad I did it then but there are signs I should have seen sooner. For instance, the first retail broker who rejected my product was very clear that my effort to keep the retail price under $10 for the consumer did not make it worth his while to sell it.

I should have bundled it with another product or enhanced it in some way to boost it to a higher price point, but I naively thought he was just being porky before two other potential brokers I engaged had schooled me on the economics of their services.

Looking back now, I could have compressed my failure cycle by at least 50 percent if I had been more teachable then.

Find insights from failure

At the time, $40K was all the money in the world and (thanks to scholarships I had earned) was eight times more than my total college student loans. But, I learned a lot about intellectual property, financing, materials sourcing, vendor research and selection, production timelines, operations management, sales and marketing as well as ecommerce. I came to view that lost $40K as a masterclass in real-world business. Most importantly, I learned what I didn’t know and that propelled me to pursue my M.B.A.. degree, which my then-employer paid for.

In hindsight, I perceive this greatest failure has been my greatest success because I earned it and learned from it. No one is immune to failing, but we must understand that it is not an ending but rather a beginning – if we choose so.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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4 Tips To Become A Team Whisperer (And Improve Your Employee Engagement)

Engaged employees are motivated, innovative and willing to take on more responsibility.

Pieter Scholtz

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Your team needs to be nurtured on an ongoing basis if you want to attract and retain the best employees. You can hire people, you can fire people, and you can tell them what to do. But you can’t make them like what they do. Some business leaders are content with having an unhappy team; as long as they do what they are paid to do then the state of their mental health is seen as superfluous.

This line of thinking is not only wrong, but it is entirely counterproductive to the continued survival of a business. Gallup has run some excellent pieces that demonstrate the difference between engaged and disengaged employees. In particular, they list several additional things that engaged employees bring to the table: Motivation, innovation, and a willingness to take on more responsibility within the company. So how can you keep your team engaged?

That level of motivation contrasts greatly with employees who don’t even want to be there. They do their jobs, but they never put in more than the bare minimum of effort. Don’t expect them to ever go beyond what their job description requires, and if there is a chance for them to duck out of work without getting fired, they’ll take it. Obviously, you don’t want to have a team that consists of these people. But without the right knowledge of how to motivate a team, you’ll find yourself unable to inspire your employees to go above and beyond what is required of them.

Related: How You Can Make Leadership Excellence An Effortless Effort

A great company cannot exist without great employees, and there are steps you can take to mould them into the people you want to have working for you. These tips are proven methods of getting your employees to be engaged in what they do, and anybody can learn to apply them.

1. Be a team, not a dictatorship

Every ship needs a strong captain, but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend every second reminding your employees who’s the boss. Your employees look to you for guidance, but they also want to feel as though you are in tune with everything that is going on. Some managers come off as though they are giving mandates from heaven, or worse, they rattle off long lists of orders because they don’t want to do the work themselves.

If you give the directive and then pitch in to reach the goal, you’ll show your employees that they are all part of a team, and they sink or swim together.

2. Give them a chance to shine

It’s true that some people are placidly content with being a cog in the wheel. I’m sure you know of at least one person who is sitting in a job they are relatively indifferent to just so they can collect a pension in twenty years. Those that fit that mould will gravitate towards jobs that give few chances to stand out and plenty of job security. For those who want to achieve more, they will never settle for a job pushing pencils all day.

Related: Effective leadership – Serving Your Team To Serve Your Clients

These restless employees are always looking for a way to prove to you that they are capable of so much more than low-level work. Denying them this opportunity will either push them to greener pastures, or if they can’t/won’t quit, cause them to become disillusioned with what they do.

If you find somebody who wants to prove themselves, let them. An employee who shows the initiative and drive to better themselves is a person who will bring your business an incredible amount of value. Don’t waste this potential.

3. Don’t take them for granted — show your gratitude

This goes beyond a simple “thank you,” although those two words can have quite a bit of power in themselves. If your employees feel like their contributions are not recognised or rewarded, they will feel little incentive to go above and beyond in what they do. How you show this gratitude is as important as the action itself, because a perceived token gesture is even more insulting than a lack of a reward. Put another way, if somebody comes up with a million-dollar idea and you give them a monogrammed lanyard as a gift, don’t expect that person to stick around. Rewarding achievement is the flip side to punishing failure, and a balance between both is necessary to craft the ideal team.

As intuitive as these three traits seem, you probably know from personal experience that a lot of managers don’t quite know how to implement these strategies effectively.

Related: Leadership Hustle: A Modern View On Leadership

4. Share the bigger picture with them

A really important element of keeping your team engaged is to share the bigger picture with them. This involves amongst others:

  • Constantly communicate the Vision and Mission of your business to your team. If your team can buy into why the business was started, where it is headed and why you exist as a business, they will be able to be as passionate as you are.
  • Provide a monthly update on how the business is tracking against its plan and this will empower them to focus on the areas that matter most to the business at that time. This includes sharing financials with the team — here one needs to take into account any legislation that might be applicable — but the more you share, the more you show your team that they are trusted with the information as well as being able to make better decisions that affect the business.
  • Keeping your team engaged, excited and energised is a pre-requisite to developing a high performing team that is able to take the business to the next level. It takes a team of dedicated people to build a successful business. Without this team, your ability to expand at the rate you had planned to will be severely hampered.

IN YOUR TOOLKIT

Become a leader that inspires greatness

multipliers-how-the-best-leaders-make-everyone-smarter-by-liz-wisemanREAD THIS: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, By Liz Wiseman.

Multipliers is profound. It’s been lifechanging for me and everyone that works with me. Leadership is not about having the best answers. You need to ask the best questions, and what happens is that you are turning people into productive engines. Micro-managing stops people from thinking for themselves as they wait for answers from you. The principle is that micro-management on that level means you are paying people 100% salary for 50% productivity. The multipliers effect allows you to pay 100% salary for 200% productivity.” — Robin Olivier, co-founder and MD of Digicape, a R240-million business based in Cape Town. Go to multipliersbooks.com for additional tips, tricks and surveys.

 


WATCH THIS

Radical Candor means challenging employees directly and showing you care personally at the same time. It will help you and your team do the best work of your lives.

Developed by Kim Scott — who led AdSense, YouTube, and Doubleclick Online Sales and Operations at Google and then joined Apple to develop and teach a leadership seminar — Radical Candor is all about becoming a leader who is both respected and followed, without being falsely ‘nice’.

There are two great YouTube videos that will give you her tips and lessons in under 20 minutes:

And if you’re interested in really unpacking the lessons behind radical candor, read the book: Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.

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5 Signs A Business Is Being Poorly Managed

Are you considering investing in a new company? Evaluate its leadership with these five factors first.

Phil Town

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Ideally, every business’s success would be so simple that anyone could run it – even an untalented person. Unfortunately, though, many businesses cannot withstand the leadership of an unqualified or untalented person, and, if a business is lucky enough to achieve longevity, odds are that someone unqualified or untalented will run it eventually.

But, how can you, as an investor, identify when a business is being run by one of those untalented people? More importantly, how can you spot when a business is being run by an untrustworthy person?

In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Phil Town breaks down five signs of bad leadership you need to consider before investing in a new company.

Click play to learn more.

Related: How To Help Your Team Shift Their Mindset To Embracing Technology For Business Management

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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