3 Beliefs Limiting Your Leadership

Command and control leadership will always be an option for managers. For as long as any one manager unquestionably believes his ideas and ways are better than another’s, then command and control will thrive.

That’s hardly notable. What is worth examining is what impels a manager to choose command and control leadership. I believe the genesis of anyone’s leadership approach is found in his or her belief about the nature of people. Both Ted and I have explored this topic here and here and here, and oh, here.

Ultimately it is your choice in how you demonstrate your leadership. Certainly it is often easier to tell people what to do than to inspire them to act. It is the latter option that will always place limits on what’s possible when it comes to business outcomes.

In over twenty years working with and alongside managers, and my own journey to define my leadership philosophy, I’ve seen managers flame out, limiting their leadership. The path to flaming out is often rooted in the leader’s belief about people and in himself.

To list the beliefs that lead managers astray could be long. Instead, I focus on three insidious beliefs that limit leadership, diminish job satisfaction, stunt employee performance, and ultimately diminish organizational progress.

We’re Different

An arrogant knee jerk reply to new ideas or approaches that alienate employees from exploration. Managers block ideas from “going up the chain of command.”

Impact: Mediocrity overshadows employees’ and the manager’s enthusiasm and excitement for projects. Employees’ artistry wanes. Safe wins and leadership is limited.

Customs are King

Customs, or traditions, have cultural significance. They’re believed because of familiarity and not questioned for their relevance. Zombie management that relies on rote methods and excelling in check the box exercises.

Impact: Poor decisions that add drama to team interactions. Financial underperformance. Fire drills pushed down from executives.

I’m insignificant

Common in new managers or managers reluctant to step up and apply their talents due to a dominant belief that they might be wrong. Also, the fear of change is overwhelming the manager. Worse yet, fear of making a mistake tricks the brain to play safe. Most insidious of them all: no one will admit this belief.

Impact: Managers isolate themselves, often unavailable when needed. Silos reinforced. Productivity diminished. Quality suffers. Employee attrition steady.

I started this post by referencing command and control leadership. The traditional leadership style is losing relevance in today’s complex organizational environment. The three above beliefs feed the style. But the beliefs are not limited to just that style of leadership. We all are prone to let these beliefs become true. The impacts are serious. And no manager who wants to thrive in the 21st century can afford putting off doing something about them.

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of ExchangeGain. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

  • Steve Borek

    I’ve had a number of clients where they felt they were insignificant.

    They fear their ideas are not good enough. Or, their idea is so obvious, to them, they feel people will laugh at them. Others are in organizations where the leaders are looking for perfection. This also prevents the manager from stepping up.

    So, sometimes this fear is self induced, other times from above.

  • Louise@The Intentional Workplace

    Hi Shawn.
    Nice post – and the site’s looking great.

    I think the theme of beliefs underlying and undermining leadership is so important – beliefs are what drives behavior and leaders need to be conscious of the beliefs that motivate their actions.

    I especially agree with your point that “The path to flaming out is often rooted in the leader’s belief about people and in himself.”

    Enjoyed the article.

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