Avoiding The Leadership Cliches!

Here is a selection of a weeks worth of leadership clichés from my LinkedIn feed:

  • When you become a leader, success is about growing others
  • Leaders lead from the front
  • If our actions inspire others to dream more and learn more then you are a leader
  • Leaders trust in positive intentions
  • A boss says 'Go', a leader says 'Let's go'
  • Train them so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to....

All pretty obvious and standard stuff and nothing there that anyone would violently disagree with. It does seem to me though that there is an awful lot of expectation on whoever this leader is, particularly when there is only one of them and lots of us! We hold them to a pretty high standard and the glut of clichés churned out every day across social media create this perfect person that surely doesn't exist.

Even when you take that last one about training people, ascribed to Virgin and Richard Branson. How true is it? Did the PR people come up with it? What I do know is that some people have had a great experience of working for Virgin and some not so good. Aren't leaders as fallible as the rest of us? Don't they have good days and bad days where they sometimes bark at people, make rubbish decisions, handle stress badly, demonstrate some of their poorer habits, give bad advice and sometimes say the wrong thing?

I don't think I have worked with, trained or coached any leaders that have seriously taken this industry of clichés to heart and lived by them day-to-day. They have had moments of leadership greatness and moments of madness; they are sometimes the best boss on earth and have sometimes been the worst. Following all of the leadership 'pieces of advice' is difficult in the real world and we shouldn't feel inadequate as people holding those key roles on the org chart if we aren't matching up to be this perfect leader - that probably doesn't exist anyway!

What we need is practical, real world advice that takes into account the ups and downs of the day-to-day of work and that recognises that our fixed personalities are sometimes going to work for us and against us in equal measure during the 9-5.