Most people attempting to climb the corporate ladder are told to follow certain steps in order to become leaders. This is particularly true for women. Studies, as well as plenty of anecdotal evidence, have proven that it can be more difficult for women to rise within the workplace than men. This has nothing to do with the competence of the women and more to do with inherent biases that some hold against women in the workplace. It’s simply more common for men to be in leadership roles, though this is changing. Therefore, women are often given tips and tricks regarding how to elevate themselves at work. These tips could be as simple as speaking in a certain way, or as complex as going by a more masculine nickname. And some definitely hold pearls of wisdom and genuinely good advice. But others are not only less than effective, but sometimes actively counterproductive. Therefore, it’s important for women to differentiate between what is helpful and what is either useless or perhaps actively working against them.
Below are a few myths regarding leadership in the workplace that can also be applied more generally. Of course, as difficult as it can be to progress professionally as a woman, becoming a better leader doesn’t mean abandoning one’s genuine personality. It’s incredibly important for women to consider how best to present themselves in the professional sphere, but people can tell the difference between authentic interactions and inauthentic interactions. By defining the difference between leadership myths and good advice, women can use that good advice without losing themselves and move forward professionally.
1. Leaders Must Know All
Many people report suffering from “imposter syndrome” as leaders, which essentially means that they don’t feel qualified to hold the positions that they do. Women especially have reported suffering from imposter syndrome because they simply don’t feel that they know everything they should as professionals. This is in part due to the idea that leaders must know everything. Rather than knowing it all, a good leader understands that everyone has limitations. It is impossible to be an expert on everything. However, it is possible to wisely appoint those who are experts in certain fields to handle the work that they are familiar with. This also means that a good leader can admit not only limitations but also mistakes that occur because of those limitations. They empower others to take leadership roles as well, ultimately making a stronger team rather than creating a spotlight on themselves alone.
2. Leaders Must Always Be Connected
Another common misconception about leaders is that they must always be available for their team, always performing at full capacity, without ever taking a break. This can actually be detrimental to leaders. As it is impossible to know everything, it is also impossible for people to always operate at full capacity without any kind of breaks. Rather, a lot of leaders create stronger bonds with their teams by being honest about when they need to take a break. It’s important to have time to recharge. This doesn’t have to mean taking an extended vacation; simply making it clear that they will be unavailable after going home for the day, or at certain points in the day, can allow a leader time to become reinvigorated. Many leaders do find themselves being overworked; in fact, an estimated 84% of companies fully expect to experience a leadership shortfall within the next five years. Often, this kind of shortfall is due to burnout and can be prevented through boundary-placing and honesty regarding limitations.
3. Only Extroverts Become Leaders
Most businesses do require that leaders take on something of a social role at times. By 2022, there will be an estimated 6,200 American co-working spaces, meaning that co-working spaces are increasing in number. This will inevitably require even more social actions from leaders, but this doesn’t mean that those leaders have to be natural extroverts. Many assume that they aren’t right for leadership roles simply because they aren’t social butterflies, but though extroversion has its benefits for leaders, so does introversion. Introverts often find it easier to buckle down and focus on work and getting things done. For that matter, lots of introverts find it simple enough to be social when necessary; it’s just not necessarily their favorite activity type. Introverts are also great at listening and reflecting quietly, rather than being reactive. Lots of employees appreciate working under introverts; after all, Bill Gates is an introvert and he hasn’t had an issue with leading others!
4. Leading Is Equivalent To Managing
Most people have worked under bad managers at one point or another. One reason why these people were likely poor managers is that they equated managing with leading. While managing people is important and can be done well, often by good leaders, it’s a different task entirely. Managers are responsible for setting rules and ensuring that a group is under control. Leaders, on the other hand, don’t need to have a specific type of management title in order to lead. They are usually those who inspire others and motivate people to progress and create better results. Right now, there are over 400 million entrepreneurs globally. A lot of those entrepreneurs will have those inspirational qualities necessary for a leader to possess; a lot of them may not prioritize being a manager as much, simply because they know that this particular role isn’t always necessary for leaders.
Again, it’s common for women to feel self-conscious and worried about moving up the corporate ladder. It can often be difficult for people to transition from the follower role to leadership roles. Women, in particular, are often told societally to be more subservient. But they don’t have to be. Even when some re-training and changing of habits is necessary, women are capable of taking up strong leadership roles at the workplace. A lot of them just might want to make sure that they aren’t setting themselves up for failure by believing in leadership myths first.Published in