Upon reading many articles in the area of leadership development over the years, I’ve always tried to gain more knowledge from what they offered.
Great leaders can lead from any position, as it’s more about how you influence others, versus where you influence them from.
From those pieces, I’ve learned from great authors a vast number of practical tips, as well as incredible principles, on how to lead others or how with self-development, one can become a better leader, etc.
I’ve come to also realize to try and take the very best of each of these ideas and make them my own - fully understanding that I can’t be that leader, and I can only be my own style of leader. I’ve also discovered that some ideas and principles of leadership are little more than a myth.
I wanted to share a few of these myths with you.
1. To be a good leader, you need to lead from the front.
Whenever I picture a great leader from a movie or story, it’s usually a really tall, strong person. I see him standing in the front, yelling out orders or sayings, all to pump everyone up.
To no surprise, everyone follows him.
As I’ve led and developed my own teams over the years, I’ve come to realize that I’m usually not in front.
Instead, I find myself sometimes in the middle, or often at the back. If we would take people on a hike, for example, I was the leader of the group that wanted to be in the back, to make sure everyone got where we were going. I would appoint someone who knew where the destination was and would tell them to lead everyone to the location, as I would take up the rear.
Every so often, someone would say “why are you not in the front, leading us to where we are going?” To which I would simply reply, “I already know where we are going. I just want to make sure everyone else gets there.”
I realized this scenario played out over and over again, in different ways as I led youth groups, tech teams, communications teams, etc. I was perfectly comfortable watching everyone get there or succeed, from the middle or back.
Great leaders can lead from any position, as it’s more about how you influence others, versus where you influence them from. Do you lead from a platform or from a relationship or combination of both?
2. To be a good leader, you need to have the answer to every problem.
It should be obvious to anyone that you will never have all the answers.
If you're in charge, though, people definitely often assume that you do. Let’s take technology for example. If you’re an audio engineer at a church - most people come to figure that you know how to run the lighting console, video systems, fix the network server, edit a video, post to social media and pick the best TV for their house. They assume since it’s technology, and with you being on the tech team, you should know it all.
If you’re the leader, then you definitely should know the answer. There is probably no real way to change that, except by educating others about your role, and what you do. Even then, though, it’s not easily remembered.
As a leader, no matter what area you oversee, you need to know how to find the answer, rather than know the answer on a moment’s notice.
Empower others on your team, talk to others that are knowledgeable in the area, and research whenever possible. By just understanding that you don’t have to have all the answers, just because you’re the leader, it’s always helpful to know that you can always say, “I might need some time to find out the answer that you’re looking for.”
3. To be a good leader, you don’t have to like everyone on your team. You just need to work with them.
One of my mentors has a saying, “Leaders need to be able to live with low-level frustrations.” I’ve taken that to heart over the years, and it has really helped me when small things or differences of opinion on nonimportant issues arise among others.
People doing things differently from how I would, but still getting it done, is a common one. Something I read when I was younger, though, read, “you don’t have to like everyone you work with.”
As the years have gone by, I’ve realized chemistry is more important than competency. Given the choice, I would choose getting along with a colleague and liking them, over that individual solelky having a great skill or ability, every time.
As most teams need skilled people, if I have a hard time liking a specific person on the team, then I have seen time and time again that it doesn’t last long. One of us ends up leaving at some point, because it’s just not working out for the team as a whole.
–Keep in mind that I’m not telling you to go and fire everyone now on your team, that you don’t get along with. What I am saying is - as you bring new team members on - be careful that you don’t get caught up in how incredible their skills are, while overlooking the chemistry between you and the rest of your team.
To get a good handle on chemistry right from the outset, we love to do interviews with strong candidates in social settings, specifically not at the office. If the person is someone really high on our list, we have some of the team members take them out for coffee or lunch, so it’s not being done in a work environment. I find that it usually makes the experience feel more casual and social, and we see how the person really is, beyond just answering questions in a formal setting.
As you develop your own leadership style, I hope you continue to not try and copy anyone in particular, but instead take the very best of ideas, principles and tips that you have come into contact with, and even challenge those ideas, as you live them out in a practical way.