There are so many myths out there about leadership that it’s hard to keep track of them all. The most successful leaders never take a day off. Leaders shouldn’t be friendly with employees, they should be cold and omnipotent. Leadership is a solitary act and it’s very lonely at the top. I could keep going.
You’ve probably heard most of these before. Maybe you even still believe some of them today. To be blunt, I hate all of these misconceptions about leadership, but I have a bone to pick with the last one in particular.
When did we decide that leaders were loners? When did the John Wayne-like personification of leaders become a desirable quality? Leaders aren’t outsiders, they’re a critical cog in their company’s well-oiled machine. When was the last time you witnessed a protagonist in a movie succeed without the support of the other characters? Or watched your favorite sports team pull off a win without all the players working in perfect harmony with one another? Leadership is no different.
What sets leaders apart isn’t their forward-thinkingness or their resilience, it’s their humility and their synchronicity. These leaders regard the pursuit of success as a group effort rather than a personal accomplishment, which makes them open and receptive to guidance and support from the rest of their team.
In the famous words of John Donne: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Leadership isn’t solitary, it’s collaborative. If you believe this (and many do), these are some of the biggest shortcomings you’ll run into:
1. If you think you know it all, you’ll do it all
You’d be hard-pressed to meet a leader who doesn’t consider themselves to be a perfectionist. As the face — or one of the faces — of your company, your name is attached to everything that’s born out of your business. It’s important to hold yourself and your employees to a high standard, but there’s a point where perfectionism becomes problematic.
When ‘perfect’ is the benchmark for success, many leaders chose to take on extra work because they believe the only way to do something right is to do it themselves. I know a lot of Type-A leaders like this, and I’ve seen their unwillingness to delegate snowball into failed projects, lost revenue, and high employee turnover rates.
It goes without saying that leadership is an awfully tireless job already; deliberately adding more to your plate will have consequences. When you try to juggle too much at once, your insurmountable stress levels will cause you to miss deadlines and forfeit quality. One person’s capacity cannot exceed the capacity of many. By not delegating, you put your company in jeopardy.
You have to relinquish your white-knuckle grip on unnecessary tasks. Leaders need to be more essential and less involved. Those that justify their immense workload confuse being involved with being essential and risk growth, innovation and profitability.
2. Alienating employees impedes prosperity.
No one haphazardly hires employees. Research has found that for every worker you replace, it can end up costing you around $15,000. High employee turnover isn’t only expensive, it’s a barrier to success.
There are many reasons why employees choose to leave their place of work. Sometimes it’s for a new opportunity, but more often than not it’s because they lack purpose in their roles. Employees want to contribute to their company’s growth, and the best leaders know how to elicit extraordinariness from their team. Leaders who refuse to delegate to team members and demonstrate an indisposition to new perspectives kill productivity and collaboration.
Ask yourself this: Why do you refuse help from employees? Is it a lack of trust? A preference for working alone? Or do you feel bad assigning employees more work? If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these, your inability to extend trust and respect to your employees is destructive to both them, you, and your company.
3. It’s okay to depend on your employees.
This doesn’t make you any less independent or self-sufficient. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a display of strength. When you seek support and guidance across your entire organization, you not only open yourself up to new ideas and perspectives, you also cultivate an environment of leaders. And shouldn’t this be how your effectiveness as a leader is judged?
I am constantly humbled by my team and live by the idea that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. As such, I am constantly conscious of any self-limiting choices I make. What innovative idea did I stave off because I didn’t delegate a project? What could I have done better if I would have accepted help from someone else? There have been so many instances where my shortcomings resulted from a lack of inclusion.
Leaders who keep to themselves and neglect their weaknesses walk a very lonely path. No one builds a lasting legacy by themselves. As most successful leaders know, it really does take a village.