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Mental Spring Cleaning for Business Leaders

Posted On April 10, 2015

vacuum-cleaner-268179_640Come springtime, many people are ready to dust away the cobwebs and winter doldrums. April is also a good time to sweep away bad advice, false affirmations and self-defeating aspirations that put a damper on your success. Here are a commonly held beliefs we would like to nominate for the chopping block:

Always be authentic.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with being genuine, but a simplistic understanding of what authenticity means can hinder career advancement and growth. In some cases where it is misunderstood, “authenticity” becomes a default mode that confines us in our comfort zones.

“Because going against our natural inclinations can make us feel like impostors, we tend to latch on to authenticity as an excuse for sticking with what’s comfortable. But few jobs allow us to do that for long.” 

To get ahead, it’s important to sell yourself and your abilities when they are still unproven, which strikes some people as inauthentic and artificial so they miss out on opportunities. Read more.

Good leaders don’t seek the limelight.

Sharing credit is necessary to engage the team, but since women in particular are often uncomfortable taking credit to start with, they should heed this advice instead:

Good leaders find authentic and appropriate ways to take credit for leading their teams and for their personal additions to the team’s success.”

Don’t rely on others to be your mouthpiece. Publicize your accomplishments and make sure key people in the right places know about them. Associate your team’s success with your leadership by prefacing announcements with “I and my team…” Read more.

Don’t rest on your laurels.

A major accomplishment is actually a good time to pause before pressing on toward the next goal. The idea is to replenish and pace yourself rather than treating your career like a race.

“Instead of start and finish lines, there are a series of fresh starts and long-term goals.”

Before taking on a new role or goal, rest on those laurels for a spell and make a list of why you want to be in that role or achieve that goal. Later, when the going gets tough, you can refer back to the list to keep yourself motivated and on track. Read more.

Be the foremost authority in your field.

It’s fine to seek recognition as a thought leader, but don’t be afraid to reveal gaps in your knowledge in pursuit of that goal. While many leaders wisely and deliberately hire people smarter than they are, they don’t actively seek their advice or tap their expertise. This hinders their own advancement as well as their team’s.

“Arrogance pushes others down, something wise leaders avoid. Make others powerful by making them advisers. Stop seeing yourself as the adviser; receive advice instead.”

It’s OK not to be the smartest person in the room all the time. In fact, the best leaders, by their own design, are sometimes the dumbest in the room. Read more.

No news is good news.

Employees cater to a vain leader’s need to be the smartest person in the room by telling the leader what she or he wants to hear. Humble leaders experience a different form of appeasement — silence and omission.

“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.”

Senior executives often receive filtered or censored news that certain gatekeepers think they should hear. That’s why it is so important to seek out unvarnished views and encourage spontaneous dialogue instead of assuming all is well. Read more.

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