When you step into your first leadership role, you’ll probably be bombarded with tips from your peers and colleagues in management. You may even have your own ideas about how to lead based on observing your boss.
Although some of the advice you receive may be sound, you shouldn’t necessarily believe everything you hear about leading a team. Business leaders weighed in on some common myths about managing employees that they’ve found to be untrue.
Myth 1: Leaders need to have all the answers
This persistent myth often plagues and intimidates up-and-coming leaders. They mistakenly believe that, because they’re managing a team, everyone will be relying on them for answers to any issue that comes up.
“I have always been concerned by leaders who make lots of statements, but ask few questions of their team,” Sherman said. “A leader must allow the expertise of the other team members to arise by questioning, challenging and offering solutions. If one leads in a silo the organization will be bound to fail.”
A related problem on the opposite end of the spectrum is a leader who believes he or she has the right answers simply by being the leader. Sherman said first-time leaders need to be humble and conquer their own pride when it comes to making decisions. [See Related Story: First-Time CEO? 6 Experiences to Prepare For]
“I believe that prudence is the hinge on which all other virtues swing,” he said. “Do not be driven by emotion, but rather reason. Take a step back and collect your thoughts before acting.”
Myth 2: A leader’s gender matters
There’s been a lot of research done about leadership and gender, and whether a male versus female leader will do a better job. While it’s true that men and women may take slightly different approaches and value different traits as leaders, there is absolutely no evidence to prove that one gender is more effective at leading than another.
“People get inspired and grow with leaders regardless of their gender,” said Ella Messerli, CEO of MyWeddingPrice.com. “The most important is to stimulate their enthusiasm and desire to grow, and be a part of the project.”
Men and women are both very capable of delivering clear communication of goals and challenges, Messerli added.
“The key is to define how the project should develop and how each person can grow with it on a professional and personal level,” she said. “Being clear and detailed in where, what and when we expect things will define all the team players’ roles.”
Myth 3: It’s impossible to successfully lead a global team
In an increasingly global business environment, more and more companies are working with international staff and business partners. It may seem like the differences in languages, cultures and time zones may be insurmountable barriers to building a cohesive and unified team. Greg Hewitt, CEO of DHL Express USA, said that, while the situation does present challenges, it’s far from impossible to motivate, inspire and lead a global company.
Aside from finding a common language for the group, the most important thing you can do is build a strong culture and training program that crosses borders, Hewitt said.
“From frontline courier to CEO, we all go through the same learning and development program,” he said. “It establishes [DHL’s] identity—who we are, what we represent, what we expect. Whether we’re in Zimbabwe or the U.S., we’re learning from the same playbook.”
Hewitt said it’s crucial to be “in the field” listening to your employees. Although it may not be possible to physically visit each of your geographically dispersed team members on a regular basis, you should continually touch base with them to make sure your culture is taking hold, he said.
“Leverage tech to make that happen,” Hewitt added. “Invest in the right video-conferencing equipment to stay connected and see people, even if you can’t get around to every site.”
Myth 4: Leaders need to “get their hands dirty”
It’s important for leaders to understand the daily tasks and projects they’re assigning out to their team. But Mark Montini, CEO and founder of small business marketing technology company Promio, said there’s a distinct difference between leading and doing — and if you’re spending all your time immersing yourself in your team’s tasks, you could undermine your own success as a leader.
“Young leaders … believe their willingness to ‘get their hands dirty’ is key to gaining the respect of those they lead. But unless you’re the best person on your team at everything, your doing [their work] means your team is less productive than it could be,” Montini told Business News Daily. “[This] will ultimately feed frustration and resentment on your team as they deliver their responsibility of ‘doing’ while you shirk your responsibility of ‘leading.'”
Montini noted that this mind-set often stems from a new manager’s previous experience. People are commonly promoted to leadership positions because they’re effective at doing certain tasks, he said, and this, in turn, makes them think they need to do those things even better as a leader.
“As a result, they continue to focus on “doing” and undermine their ability to achieve success as a leader,” Montini added. “Doing is tactical; leadership is strategic. And you need both to build successful teams and organizations.”
Myth 5: Leaders can hire self-starters and let go of the reins
On the flip side of the previous myth, leaders can’t be completely hands-off, either. It’s good to have independent, self-motivated employees who don’t need constant direction, but you don’t want to be an absentee manager, said Lior Rachmany, CEO and founder Dumbo Moving + Storage.
“You still have to lead your team in the trenches,” he said. “Remember that you are part of a team. You all share a common goal and you have to work together to achieve that.”
To emphasize the importance of finding a balance between micromanaging and hands-off leadership, Rachmany reminded new leaders that people often leave a job because they dislike the management, not the company: “If you have a high turnover, you’re [likely] the problem.”