There’s a LOT of advice out there on leadership and
management – almost as much as you’ll find on dating, careers, and how to raise
rarely come across an article in my daily Smartbrief
on Leadership newsletter and say to myself “Well, that
sure is a crock full of hooey!”
However, I’d recommend running away as far as you can
from the following pearls of leadership & management wisdom:
your weaknesses and leverage your strengths.” Try
Googling any variation of this advice, and you’ll find plenty of very credible
sources telling you to ignore your
strengths. This feel-good nonsense usually stems from a lazy misinterpretation
of what’s referred to as the “strength-based leadership development” movement,
made popular by Gallop, Marcus
Buckingham, and countless other copycats. Gallop and Buckingham
never said to IGNORE your weaknesses – the idea is to do whatever it takes to
minimize your weaknesses (improvement, delegation, finding a different job,
a critical leadership weakness is a surefire path to
“You need to know more than anyone who works under you.” I
actually heard a senior vice-president give this advice to a group of new
managers. I wanted to set my hair on fire! Believing that you could possibly
know more than the sum of everyone who works for you is arrogance at its worst!
“It’s OK to be friends with your employees.” You can be friendly with your employees, but when
you are in a position that requires you to objectively hire, promote, rewards,
or discipline, the relationship needs to change. I
wrote a post about this a while back and there were a few
comments from managers who insisted that I was wrong and they were able to do
it. Most, however, agreed. You live and learn.
you can’t measure it, then you can’t manage it.” This
is bull – in fact, most of what we do
at work can’t and shouldn’t be measured. Managers that subscribe to this advice
end up paying attention to the minutia that’s easily measured and ignoring
what’s really important.
“Don’t pay attention to criticism; it’s not your job to make everyone happy.”
Managers who turn a deaf ear to constructive feedback or dissent
will miss opportunities to improve, solve problems, or build coalitions for
“Leaders are born and not made.” Despite overwhelming
evidence to the contrary, I still hear this myths perpetuated,
often by self-proclaimed “experts”. Perhaps Warren Bennis
said it best: “The most dangerous
leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to
leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain
charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true.
Leaders are made rather than born.”
“The best way to learn leadership is from successful business CEOs”. Sometimes – but not always. Steve Jobs
was a visionary and incredibly successful businessman, but there are plenty
of people who characterize him as one of the world’s worst
leaders. I know of a CEO who handed out Job’s book to his executive team as a
leadership tutorial. OMG, pity those poor employees!
8. “No news is good news.” The
higher up you go in an organization, the more likely it is that you’ll become isolated
and shielded from bad news by your palace guard. Not
hearing about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist – it just means you have your
head in the sand.
“You need to pull up their sleeves, pitch in and get your hands dirty.”
While it’s good to do this once in a while, managers should not be doing the
work of 1-2 levels below them on a regular basis. When they do, they do it at
the expense of the unique and critical work that they should be doing as a
manager, undermine their employee’s work, and end up micromanaging.
“First in, last out.” Meaning, you need to be the first one to
work and the last to leave. Managers that work insanely long hours on a
consistent basis are candidates for burn-out. You’ll
be less effective in the long run and set a bad example for
the rest of the organization. Besides – what if 1-2 of your employees are
following the same career advice? It could turn into a rather absurd content to
see who can be the first one to work in the morning.