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Bad Leadership Advice

I listened to a podcast a few days ago. It must have been good because I'm still thinking about it. If that's the key performance indicator, then, well done. But if the goal was to impart wisdom and a new point of view, I have to respectfully give it one star.

There is no expectation that every bit of information I process will be great. Similarly, some podcast episodes resonate and some just exist. So these two issues that I will address cover some really bad leadership advice in the middle of some really good contextual information; mostly. Here's some of the Bad Leadership Advice (BLA) that was distributed:

BLA 1) Fake it till you make it: I've heard this forever. I don't know that I fully appreciated the point of view until I heard the wrong one. This version of Fake It Till You Make It was stereotypical corporate blowhardery where the faking was characterized as lying and bravado. The "faking it" part meant trying to pull the wool over everyone else's eyes so they wouldn't, or couldn't see that the leader didn't know what they were up to. They were recommending NOT to do this, to be clear. Do NOT fake it. They recommended people ask questions, admit they need more info, and rely on others. This is a really, really good point of view and good context for the conversation.

Please consider Fake It Till You Make It as less of a veneer or persona to show others, but a disposition to convince yourself that you belong. Instead of showing the world that the new leadership responsibilities freak you out, you save the freak out for yourself. The "faking it" comes in when you have to make a decision. If you don't feel comfortable in the role, fake comfort for your own benefit. Pretend like you actually belong there. "If I was responsible for this decision, what would I need to know before deciding?" Even if you actually ARE responsible, you can pretend, for a bit, that you're not. Remove your self-doubt and fake your way through like you belong and then check to make sure your outcome fits your style and the situation at hand.

Fake It Till You Make It doesn't have to mean fooling anyone. It might mean accepting your responsibilities despite your brain asking you to do otherwise. Even if you don't feel comfortable doing so, fake the rest of your brain out by acting like you DO belong in your role. Before long, your whole self will feel more confident and competent in the leadership role.

BLA 2) Make it up as you go: Again, the context was really good. Essentially, good leaders don't have all the answers, we're just making it up as we go. This makes sense and is a self-aware point of view articulating that leaders, or anyone, do not have all of the answers. And we're just making it up as we go.

Now we have a problem. Making It Up As We Go sounds like 3 children playing with blocks. Please, if you've read this far, do not tell folks you're "making it up as you go." While Making It Up As We Go is succinct, I do think there's a lot more nuance that is not being communicated.

With rare exception including the ethically dubious, every leader has demonstrated some characteristic, ability, or skill that has indicated to others that they could be a good leader. Whatever that was, the leader showed their work. This means they earned the opportunity to be considered, they earned the opportunity to be in the role, and they earned the opportunity to fulfill the role. To boil that down to Making It Up As We Go discounts the qualities that landed the leader in that role. Making It Up As We Go also implies that essentially any answer to a problem is as good as the next. Why do we need a leader if they're just making stuff up? The reality is that the effective leader relies on their experience, knowledge, and ability to inform decisions. Like anyone, they might need a nudge to think outside of their comfort zone or to whittle down their idea to something more palatable to others.

When the new scenario is presented, with new data, new information, new points of view, effective leaders take all of the information in to process, discuss, troubleshoot, and ultimately plan a course of action. Unless the leader is truly a great example of a bad example, they are certainly not Making It Up As They Go.

"Did you write this post to roast an unnamed podcast?" Certainly not. Whenever there is leadership advice distributed, we should review with a critical eye; including this information. There is some real difficulty trying to be seen as an expert, and be vulnerable, and be succinct, and be memorable, and be authentic. This is because, in part, many of us are trying to fit somebody else's expectations. Sometimes that's to get, keep, or advance a job. Sometimes, it's because we don't know what else to do.

The complexity is that a lot of people are discussing leadership as qualities of a leader that are very human and that will absolutely support their team. What is being hired for leadership is 149 years experience doing the thing the leader is to supervise and another 214 doing the exact role or more at another organization. What the actual heck. That's right, get fired up.

Get fired up to be your authentic self in leadership. If that's where you are, great. If you have to move on to do so, please consider it. At a bare minimum, you can be the leader you wish you had. If everything we hear about what comprises a great leader are true, then it seems that all of the bad leadership advice floating out there will eventually settle to the bottom and true leaders who empower their teams will rise to the top.

That's the goal. More authentic leaders who care about their teams. Culture, longevity, profits, and overall success will be joining these leaders very soon.

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