Three leadership myths to avoid
2. The Myth of Omniscience
This is the belief that being the leader means knowing everything about everything. It comes in two varieties. In some environments, it makes the brand new leader micromanage and attempt to oversee the smallest detail. In others, it makes the leader think they have to know the answer to every question. Why else would they be the leader?
Bradley had these two issues. He started looking over everyone’s shoulder. Bradley also never failed to give an answer even when he was clueless. His staff noticed. They even started reading questions from the back of a quantum physics text book just to mess with him.
3. The Myth of Omni-adrenaline
This is probably the most damaging myth in today’s complex, skill-driven team environments. It is the belief that excellent execution from a team demands adrenaline surges, rousing speeches and lots of shouting. Every movie has such inspirational moments and Bradley tried to create them every day. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to work on his team.
Bradley’s attempts at motivating were actually hurting his team’s performance, not helping. Shouting and adrenaline surges are only useful for invoking over-learned, mindless performance in the face of fear and actual physiological arousal. Military units and sports teams are perfect for this type of leadership. They also provide clear winners and losers and are wonderful backdrops for the kind of dramatic storytelling Hollywood thrives on. Would you want to see a movie about complex, skill-driven teams toiling day after day to solve logistics issues, problems with customer service, or trying to get the copier man to arrive on time?
But adrenaline surges also narrow cognition and thinking. Today’s American work environment demands creative problem solving, flexible decision making and complex reasoning. When was the last time you had to jump on a grenade or charge into an enemy bayonet line? A leader suffering from “omni-adrenaline” in the modern workplace looks clueless and simple-minded. “Why is he shouting? I’m trying to concentrate over here!”
Americans and movie watchers worldwide are taught myths about leadership every day. The myths of omnipotence, omniscience and omni-adrenaline are just a few of the leadership stereotypes that can be fixed with training or mentorship. Fortunately, these “inoculations” are available in all kinds of dosage sizes. Everyone can get access to leadership training in today’s technology-connected world. And why not? Wouldn’t you want to create a more productive, cooperative workplace by dispelling the myths of leadership you suffer from?
Erick Lauber, Ph.D., is an applied psychologist and faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He speaks and consults on leadership, personal growth and development, and taking charge of our own life stories. His video log is located at http://www.lifeframing.org/. Contact him at http://www.ericklauber.com/ or (724) 464-7460.
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