“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
— Alan Alda
When each of us first came to leadership we had—or if you are new to leadership you might have—a few assumptions of what leaders do. We are going to cover five assumptions of leadership that will get everyone talking.
- Leaders have all the answers
The leaders of an organization have to find the answers, but rarely do they have the answer. They must engage their team and the expertise that they have. If a leader’s background is finance and they are encountering a manufacturing problem they need to have people they trust to bring them the best options.
To get to the right answer the leader understands we need to ask great questions. If your team comes to you for answers, you’re limiting their ability to think. The questions you ask must change to keep things innovative. Leaders need to have, and instill in their organization, a health level of curiosity to find new answers and options to the challenges of today.
- Leaders are always right
A leader, like all people, must understand that they make mistakes; how they handle those mistakes can change the team’s trust of their leader. A leader must admit when they make mistakes and realize how to learn from the issue at hand. Later on we will learn about how important humility is for great leaders. Trust is an important part of leadership and a team will respect the leader who admits their mistakes.
- Leaders are the smartest
Being a leader and being an expert are two different things. As we move into a leadership role we must understand that we are no longer the subject matter expert we may have been before. Lynn Good, CEO of Duke Energy, detailed in a New York Times interview how she learned as a leader that she is not the smartest individual. “At a certain career level, it’s no longer about whether you are the smartest expert in the room,” Good explains. “As you think about developing people through their careers, you’re looking for that transition from being the smartest person in the room—and caring so much about that—to being the most effective.”
- Leaders have titles
An organization can have formal leaders with titles but there are always informal leaders who play key roles. As John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence,” so if you have some you are a leader. It is important to use it wisely as people are watching. Leaders who abuse the power they have lose that
When I first got into a leadership position I tried to persuade my boss to make a change that I thought would create a better quality product. The actual person who would make the decision was someone else entirely. I naively thought that since my boss had a title he was the person who would make the decision.
- Leadership is a trait
Leadership is a skill we can all develop, not a trait we are born with. Similar to learning to ride a bike, you must work at it and you can do it as well. One key ingredient to becoming a leader is the desire to learn and grow. Michael Hyatt, the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, says you are a leader if any of these statements resonate with you.
- You long to make a difference.
- You’re dissatisfied with the status quo.
- You’re not waiting on a bigger staff or more resources to accomplish your vision.
- Your dreams are so big they seem impossible.
- You acknowledge what is but inevitably ask what could be.
- You realize you don’t have to be in charge to have significant influence.