Do you ever feel a twinge of doubt when you hear pithy phrases that sound true but don’t tell the whole story? There are a lot of these when it comes to leadership. Here are 5 of the more popular ones and why they may sound smart but can prove to be dumb.
1. “Be true to yourself”
Another way of saying this is “be who you are.” This can be a good objective if who you are is built upon sound character and good judgement. However, if who you are is known for doing things that are not so smart than, by all means – it’s better to be untrue to yourself!
2. “Follow your passion”
I have worked with a lot of leaders who followed their passions, and it got them into a truck load of trouble. Our passions are important, but they can also be very destructive. So DON’T follow your passions unless you are sure they are not going to lead you over a cliff.
3. “Failure is not an option”
Really? If that is true, why are there so many failures in life and leadership? Failure is always an option. It may not be a good one, but don’t kid yourself into thinking it is not an option. Over many years, I have watched a significant number of leaders and boards choose failure. And, they successfully accomplished it.
4. “Work smarter, not harder”
What makes dumb sayings sound smart is that there’s often an element of truth within them. And this is one of those sayings. I have coached clients over the years to work smarter. But I seldom would coach people to separate these two. Both are important. Working hard without working smart is, well, not so smart. But working smart without working hard can be another way of saying, “I’m lazy!”
5. “Play to your strengths”
This phrase grew out of the positive psychology movement which has added great value to leaders by encouraging them to focus on their strengths. And there are benefits to this since we will be at our best when centering our work around our strengths. But some leaders use this as an excuse for bad behavior, implying they never need to address weaknesses since, “That’s just not who I am.” When used as an excuse for bad behavior, this phrase falls into the “dumb saying” bucket and should be avoided.
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center Consulting Group and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of organizational assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include an M.Ed. in Instructional Systems Design from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership from The Union Institute.