I was recently interviewed by The Business Code to talk about the notions we hold about leadership—and whether our ideas spur us onwards or hold us back. Here are some themes that we touched on.
The notion of what a leader is
Myth: We often think of a leader as someone at a senior level in the organization, perhaps with a certain title or educational degree. They are people who make important decisions, carry a lot of authority and often have the answers.
Reality: In reality, leaders exist at all levels of the organization. The most important aspects of leadership are understanding the business mission and then supporting others in achieving that goal. Those who show commitment and ownership, and focus on raising their teams up, are de facto leaders with real impact.
The leadership personality
Myth: The stereotypical leader is outgoing and confident, energetic and optimistic.
Reality: There is no personality type required for leadership. In fact, characteristics that you might think of as being a liability may in fact be strengths. E.g. a leader who is shy and introverted may be a great listener and engender trust and loyalty amongst those around him. In the end, the most important personality trait a leader can possess is genuineness.
Understanding and accepting what we have to work with
Myth: “I’m uncomfortable with this push towards authenticity. Certain situations bring out my insecurities and I’d rather not expose that to my team.”
Reality: Everyone is going to feel off balance at one time or another. Pretending to be someone you’re not can come across as defensive or fake, and people around you know when you’re putting on an act. Owning who you are—warts and all—can be more grounding for yourself and those around you. And if you really want to move beyond your limitations, you need to understand where you’re starting from before you can progress.
How women can succeed in leadership roles
Myth: There are a lot of biases about how women should conduct themselves in a business environment and women themselves are often socialized to embrace these self-limiting conceptions. There’s not much that can be done about it.
Reality: Bias in one form or another will always be present, both from within and without. But you can learn to recognize when you are imposing these ideas on yourself or others, and develop strategies to step around them and perform at your best. In reality, every one of us—regardless of gender, race, age, etc.—will have people come at us with their own opinions and assumptions. No matter who you are, you need to understand your own value and not let others define you.
Getting stuck in your "should" mindset
Myth: “It seems like my peers have it together more than I do.”
Reality: Your perfectionism and competitiveness may be useful in some aspects of your professional life, but using them to beat yourself up is counter-productive. First, you never know what someone else’s internal state is or how “together” they have it. Second, if you want to accomplish more, don’t waste time looking back and regretting where you think you should be. Look forward to defining your objectives and putting together a plan to get there.
We need to step away from prescribed notions of what a leader should look and sound like, and spend more time understanding what each of us brings to the table and what we need to achieve within our organizations. Wherever we find issues, let’s address them. Wherever we find strengths, let’s use them. By “keeping it real” we work from a place of openness and clarity and are far more likely to succeed in our purpose.
To hear the original podcast interview, visit //businesscodetalk.com/podcast/jennine-heller/
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