Published February 5, 2018

If you were given the chance to relive your professional life, would you do things differently? Ponder this question for a moment and perhaps even write down anything you might like to do differently…

If you have been a manager or leader for some time, you will most certainly have gathered quite a lot of experience along the way. You might even smile a little (or perhaps gasp!) when you think about how you have handled some things during this time. Leadership, as life itself, is a never-ending stream of lessons and valuable experiences. And with these lessons come, hopefully, some changes, to be able to do, and to dare do things in a different way.

Someone who has given this a lot of thought is Sara Canaday, leadership expert, lecturer and author of several books on leadership. Over the years, she has coached a large number of leaders in many different companies and observed how they change how they do things. She has also asked her clients to share what they have felt have been the most important insights during this journey. In Psychology Today, Canaday reveals her clients’ experiences and her own under the heading “Five Misconceptions Every Modern Leader Should Know”. 

The list offers some valuable food for thought for those of you who are at the beginning of your leadership career. But even if you are a seasoned leader, this may be useful to you. It is after all never too late to learn a thing or two:

Misconception 1: Don’t be afraid to press pause. When you do things, you feel productive and useful, right? Therefore you might draw the conclusion that anyone who is constantly busy is also the one who gets the most things done. However, research shows that in order to be really efficient, we all need regular breaks with time to rest and reflect, even during the work day. This is particularly true in today’s work life, where the conditions might change at the drop of a hat and new solutions are required to succeed. So, do set aside some time in your agenda when you only focus on thinking. It will give you so much in return.

Misconception 2: Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. How do you feel about words like mistake and making mistakes? Not great, perhaps? But if the most important thing for you is not to make mistakes, you will never learn anything new. Of course this does not mean that you should strive to deliberately make mistakes, only that you should see mistakes as a natural part of the learning process. So far no one has ever become good at anything without making some mistakes along the way…

Misconception 3: Don’t worry about having all the answers. Would it not be nice to be an expert at everything and have the answers to all the questions? Unfortunately this is not possible. Instead you ought to think the other way around – and become an expert at asking the right questions! “What if we…” is often a good start. Then the real experts, your colleagues, can work out the answers.

Misconception 4: Don’t avoid stepping outside of your comfort zone. To always feel comfortable in your work situation sounds nice, doesn’t it? But this would also mean you saying no to some challenges and the opportunities that come with them. There is an expression that goes, ”If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got”. If you want to reach new and improved results, you occasionally have to take some risks. What might you for example learn from others, from people, companies and different lines of business? Is it time to increase your network? Time to pick up a few new ideas?

Misconception 5: Don’t forget to coach and develop others. Most companies today seem to have too much to do and too little time in which to get it done. It is easy to then skip further training and development for the employees, in an attempt to save time and money. However, one of the most important tasks for a leader is to make sure that his or her employees grow, acquire more knowledge and more expertise for the company. If you struggle to see the short term benefits, you can at least be assured that this is essential for the company to survive and flourish long term. Or, in the words of British scientist Claus Moser, “Education costs money, but then so does ignorance”.…

So, do you agree? Or do you have any thoughts of your own about what you could do differently? Remember, it is never too late to change…

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