Five Beliefs That Can Trip Leaders Up

In many of my blogs throughout the years I have shared the idea that “leadership is not for the faint of heart”. Being a leader may sound enticing and it really can be very fulfilling. Yet sometimes leaders fall prey to their own internal thinking that can hijack their best efforts. These limiting self-beliefs can seem to pop-up every so often in our careers, surprising even the most experienced leader. Let’s take a stab at what a belief is all about.

We define a belief as: a statement or admittance that something is true. Leaders hold certain ideas about themselves close to their hearts. These thoughts drive our decisions, actions and connections with others. But sometimes these beliefs are faulty and aren’t actually true at all. That means that leaders must perform a sort of “truth test” to establish the credibility of certain beliefs. Often we don’t even recognize that we are allowing an untrue belief to guide us until one of our colleagues or bosses or mentors points it out to us. Then, we still might challenge it and eventually see its cracks.

Here are five beliefs that can trip a leader up:

1. My Team Members Are Smarter Than Me

Have you recently looked around on your zoom calls with your team and decided that your colleagues were executing way better than you? Are your co-workers’ voices sounding louder and louder on every call? What might be happening is that your team members are just coming more prepared and ready to present during the team meetings. It probably has less to do with being smart and more to do with having the confidence to stand out and be courageous in sharing your point of view. To overcome those feelings decide ahead of time what you want to present to your team and spend time preparing the points you want to make. Practice what you will be saying and be ready for any pushback. By the way, strong leaders want to be surrounded with smart people.

2. I Don’t Need To Add New Skills

Just as leaders need to be ready for a virtual team meeting, they also have to be honest about their strengths and skills. For some of us who have been in the work world for many years, adding new skills or knowledge may feel unnecessary. After all, we have been successful up until now in our careers. But with the fast changing world of work, think again. Instead of being fearful of the opportunity to grow:

  • Identify areas in your career that can use some updating.
  • Talk to your boss about trying out some stretch assignments to challenge yourself.
  • Check out some online coursework that fascinates you and it will add substantially to your leadership toolbox.

3. Most People See Me As Bossy

When leaders get feedback from team members and colleagues that they are coming across too aggressively, it is time for a check-in with yourself. Ask yourself: “Why are others seeing me this way? What behaviors or actions are reinforcing this?” Sometimes we are unaware that a particular way we interact may be coming across as too pushy. For example, when we delegate or collaborate, we need to stay open to different perspectives. I once had a boss who would bark out assignments and didn’t realize what he sounded like until I brought it to his attention in a respectful way.

4. Showing Vulnerability Is Weak

A leader who is able to share the good, the bad and the ugly with their teams will be a highly influential leader. I have seen this first hand recently with a team that had a closed off leader. When the new leader came in and showed her vulnerable side a culture of trust developed. To be more vulnerable:

  • Always be truthful with the facts and issues.
  • Share your authentic feelings about challenges.
  • Admit mistakes as well as lessons learned.
  • Be clear and direct with feedback.

5. I am Not An Influential Leader

To be a leader means to be an influencer. However, we do not need a title or a position to be persuasive. What we need is confidence, a well-developed platform of ideas and an intentional voice to share them. You are probably more influential than you think. Do others listen to your suggestions and include them in the final product? Do you see yourself as a valuable team player? Focus on ways you contribute and areas that people ask you for help. Those are your strengths and gifts. And those will empower you to become a more influential leader.

What beliefs have tripped you up in your leadership? How did you overcome them?

Related: Five Behaviors That Create Leadership Transparency