The 4 Myths of Leadership


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 3 million people voluntarily quit their job in April 2016. Private corporations experienced 107,000 more employees walk out the door compared to January 2016. That sends a clear message—in an uncertain economy, workers would rather quit and take their chances than tough it out in their current situation.

High employee turnover has a lasting negative impact on an organization. It’s estimated the cost of employee turnover is 150-400 percent of the departed staff’s salary. The numbers add up when you factor in recruitment, onboarding, training and development, lost opportunity, productivity, and institutional knowledge.

There are also hidden costs of lower morale and an overworked staff for those employees who remain—the mental weight can be taxing. Worst of all, a disgruntled employee may damage your reputation or misrepresent and disgrace your brand. This may cripple you—especially if you’re a small business.

As a leader, there is nothing more important than having followers who have willingly chosen to follow you. It’s a known fact that people don’t quit jobs, they quit bad managers. Sadly, too many leaders are on their employees’ loath list—rather than love list. A 2015 Gallup study found that 50 percent of those who quit their job did so “to get away from their manager.”

The facts are clear: we are in a leadership crisis. As a performance coach, I’ve found the primary culprit of poor leadership is the lethal combination of an overly inflated ego mixed with low self-confidence. These myths are widening the leadership gap:

1. MYTH: You must be the expert (at everything).

One primary job as a leader is to recruit, retain, and empower talent that’s smarter and better than you. Why would you run the risk of jeopardizing your company by taking on work that isn’t suited for your talents? Let your employees do the work suited for their strengths.

Your job is to establish the vision and create chemistry engineered for greatness. If you intend to climb the corporate ladder to the C-suite, you need to become an expert in people—not doing all of the work.

2. MYTH: You acknowledge your staff enough.

I have yet to meet one person who feels they are acknowledged, celebrated, or valued enough by their boss and peers. You may think you’re acknowledging your staff enough… chances are, you’re probably not. Invest time in celebration. Acknowledge your team—collectively and individually—and for heaven’s sake, go out of your way to let your staff know how they’re specifically adding value. I’ve had our clients’ employees tell me they’d prefer to be acknowledged for their hard work and commitment more than accept a miniscule pay raise.

Keep in mind that everyone is different, meaning, people prefer to be celebrated in different ways. Some relish in the opportunity to see their name on the boardroom’s LED monitor during the Monday Morning Meeting and that may frighten others who just appreciate a detailed handwritten note.

Your responsibility? Ask your staff members how they like to be acknowledged, document it for institutional knowledge sake, and implement it.

3. MYTH: Vulnerability is a weakness.

People follow people—not superheroes or cyborgs. You are not perfect and your imperfections, thoughts, and feelings are important to you and your team. If you want to become a leader who has passionate followers in your corner, then it’s imperative you use vulnerability as a tool to grow closer to your people.

Nothing says it better than this General Colin Powell quote that speaks volumes about vulnerability: “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

Trust and vulnerability go hand-in-hand and it’s your responsibility to model the way.

4. MYTH: The “L” word doesn’t belong in the workplace.

Failing to embrace love is, by far, the biggest error leaders make. Barry Posner, co-author of The Leadership Challenge, told me the leadership practice that is most needed, but least used, is Encouraging the Heart.

If you develop a foundation of mutual trust with your team it will become easier to have those real, tough-love conversations when the time comes. People are more likely to follow someone they respect, admire, and love. This is heart-centered leadership and it can break down barriers and transform the workplace and the trajectory of your staffs’ lives as well as their families.