Last month, celebrity scientists Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman wrapped up thirteen years of debunking theories with the grand finale of MythBusters. I'll admit that I wasn't exactly a loyal fan of the show, but I did enjoy a few episodes here and there. It's fascinating to see these scientists take a myth that most people have heard, then test that myth, typically proving it's simply not true. I'm not a scientist, however, I am familiar with many myths in leadership and feel they've run their course in holding leaders back from reaching their full potential.
Here are three major misconceptions that leaders commonly believe to be weaknesses, when in fact they are traits and strategies that can be used as your secret weapon to effective leadership:
Myth #1: To retreat is to give up.
The Buster: Retreat is actually a way for a leader to regain clarity of vision and engage their work again more powerfully. The idea of a retreat comes from an old French word meaning “a step backward.” The word took on a military connotation in the 14th century as the act of withdrawing from action. The reason for withdrawal was to regroup so that you may re-engage the enemy again more powerfully than before. Retreat is a powerful tool for positioning yourself for strength, especially when the state of being overwhelmed or stressed is restricting you from doing your best.
Myth #2: To be vulnerable is to be weak.
The Buster: Stop thinking that you are weak when you open up and share! You’re actually the opposite – you’re incredibly brave to let someone else in. Chances are, when you do, you’ll find someone as desperate as you are to connect on a meaningful level. The Industrial Age leadership principles and the “shut up and just get the job done” mindset are things of the past. Today’s leaders must be more open and transparent with their teams. When you are open, transparent, and clear with your thoughts and your thought processes, I believe you will find a team of people – professional and personal – who are ready to jump in and help you, walk beside you, and strive with you to accomplish great things.
Myth #3: Asking questions jeopardizes your intelligence.
The Buster: People often think that asking questions may put your reputation of high intelligence, or your perception of it, on the line. What's intimidating about asking questions is the uncertainty of the response you'll receive. But what can you do with unanswered questions? Nothing. Imagine what happens when your questions are answered: you receive clarity in a situation, you solve a problem, you understand your relationships better, etc. Ask questions, good questions, and get the answers you need in order to move you forward with your team, projects, and leadership.
Retreat. Take an hour and a half out of your work day to evaluate the progress of your projects and do some self-reflection. Be Vulnerable. Be honest with someone about how you are feeling and what you are doing. Do this with someone who already knows you well, who you can trust to help you. Ask Questions. What in your organization or team needs clarification? What questions do you need to ask your leader/mentor, your team, or even yourself? Make a list of questions and take time to ask them this week.