This post is part of the 📖 Nine Lies About Work series.
Today, I am reading LIE #9: Leadership is a thing chapter of the book Nine Lies About Work written by Authors Marcus Buckingham & Ashley Goodall.
There are some big lies, distortions, faulty assumptions, wrong thinking that we encounter every time we show up for work. Nine lies, to be exact. They cause dysfunction and frustration, ultimately resulting in workplaces that are a pale shadow of what they could be.
By reading Nine Lies About Work, you can get past the lies and discover what’s real. These freethinking leaders recognize the power and beauty of our uniqueness. They know that emergent patterns are more valuable than received wisdom and that evidence is more powerful than dogma.
LIE #9: Leadership is a thing
This is not a chapter about leadership.
A leader is someone who has followers, plain and simple. The only determinant of whether anyone is leading is whether anyone else is following.
This notion—that a leader is a person with followers—does not emerge from a list of skills, or tactics, or competencies; it doesn’t coincide with a person’s level within a hierarchy, and it doesn’t tell us very much about the nature of the leader him- or herself.
It does capture a condition, a litmus test if you like, for leading. And that condition is precise—precise—it’s about the presence, or absence, of followers.
We want to feel part of something bigger than ourselves—the “Best of We”—while, at the same time, feeling that our leader knows and values us for who we are as a unique individual—the “Best of Me.”
More specifically, we follow leaders who connect us to a mission we believe in, who clarify what’s expected of us, who surround us with people who define excellence the same way we do, who value us for our strengths, who show us that our teammates will always be there for us, who diligently replay our winning plays, who challenge us to keep getting better, and who give us confidence in the future.
This is not a list of qualities in a leader but rather a set of feelings in a follower. What we are “seeing” is, in fact, our feelings as a follower.
We need not dictate how each leader should behave, but we can define what all good leaders must create in their followers. Those eight items introduced in chapter 1 are a valid measure of a leader’s effectiveness.
Here are the eight items for your reference from chapter 1
- I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
- At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
- In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
- I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.
- My teammates have my back.
- I know I will be recognized for excellent work.
- I have great confidence in my company’s future.
- In my work, I am always challenged to grow.
Leadership isn’t a thing because it cannot be measured reliably. Followership is a thing because it can.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we will continue to read a new chapter LIE #9: Leadership is a thing.
LIE #1: People care which company they work for
We, as team members, want our team leader to make us feel part of something bigger, that he/she shows us how what we are doing together is important and meaningful. You as a team leader make us feel that you can see us, and connect to us, and care about us, and challenge us in a way that recognizes who we are as individuals.
LIE #2: The Best Plan Wins
It’s far better to coordinate your team’s efforts in real-time, relying heavily on each unique team member’s informed, detailed intelligence. You’ll have to sit down and survey your team members and make your plan.
The more frequently and predictably you check in with your people or meet with your team—the more you offer your real-time attention to the reality of their work—the more performance and engagement you will get.
It’s not true that the best plan wins. The best intelligence indeed wins.
LIE #3: The best companies cascade goals
We should unlock information through intelligence systems and cascade meaning through our expressed values, rituals, and stories.
We should let our people know what’s going on in the world and which hill we’re trying to take, and then we should trust them to figure out how to contribute.
They will invariably make better and more authentic decisions than those derived from any planning system that cascades goals from on high.
LIE #4: The best people are well-rounded
Best people are not well-rounded. They are distinctive. Well-roundedness is a misguided and futile objective for individual people, but it’s an absolute necessity for teams.
The well-rounded high performer is a creature of the theory world. However, each high performer is unique and distinct in the real world and excels precisely because that person has understood their uniqueness and cultivated it intelligently.
Competencies like Customer focus, innovation, growth orientation, agility are values to be shared, and they are not abilities to be measured.
Shift your thinking to outcomes where you’re asking individual team members to deliver to better match their distinctive talents.
LIE #5: People need feedback
People don’t need feedback. They need attention and attention to what they do the best. And they become more engaged and therefore more productive when we give it to them.
In the real world, each person’s strengths are the greatest opportunity for learning and growth. Time and attention devoted to contributing to these strengths intelligently will yield exponential return now and in the future.
Get into the conscious habit of looking for what’s going well for each of your team members.
LIE #6: People can reliably rate other people
There’s no reliable way to measure competencies that team members are supposed to possess in the real world. Human beings can never be trained to rate other human beings reliably.
We need to ask thorny questions like, “Do you turn to this team member when you want extraordinary results?”, “Would you promote this person today if you could?”, “Do you choose to work with this team member as much as you possibly can?”, “Do you think this person has a performance problem that you need to address immediately?”
LIE #7: People have potential
It’s not true that people have potential. Instead, the truth is that people have momentum. Encourage team leaders to discuss careers with their people in terms of momentum—in terms of who each team member is and how fast each is moving through the world.
LIE #8: Work-life balance matters most
Work-life balance is an unachievable goal in an ever-changing world.
If we want our people to flourish, if we want them to be creative and intrigued and generous and resilient, then we’ve got to help them find love in work.
Spend a week in love with your work. By the end of the week, you will see a list of activities that feel different to you from the rest of your work. Think of these activities as your “red threads.”
These red threads are the activities you love, and your challenge is to pinpoint them so you can ensure you’ll be able to recreate them, refine them, and add to them.
Hold tightly to your red threads. Yes, so you can blossom. But mostly so you can figure out ways to share what’s unique about you with the rest of us.
Author(s): Marcus Buckingham
Author(s): Ashley Goodall
Part 21 of 23 in the 📖 Nine Lies About Work book series.