Old Myths, New Mindsets: Strategic Leadership

Elegant leaderExecutives, across all industries and levels, have one goal in common. They want to run a successful team and a successful organization. Without question, the business dynamics and competitive climate in which they operate has changed dramatically over the years, yet many leaders lean on old corporate myths to drive their success.

I have encountered many leaders, both within and outside of healthcare, who think:

1. There is no ‘I’ in team.
2. Great outcomes come from perfect plans
3. During times of rapid change wait for clarity before acting.
4. There are no stupid questions.
5. Everyone’s opinion counts.
6. Nice guys/girls finish last.
7. The customer is always right.

What I’ve found through experience and the changing mindset that I’ve developed as a leader is that a lot of this is no longer, and perhaps never was true.

Myth: There’s no ‘I’ in team.

Fact: A strong “I” or commitment to personal accountability and professional achievement from each member leads to high performing teams.

Action: A comprehensive operations plan includes clear role assignments and timelines at every phase of a project leaving no question which team member is accountable for driving the success of that element. It also provides ample opportunity for the leader to recognize individual contributions along with team achievements.

Myth: Great outcomes come from perfect plans.

Fact: Great outcomes come from consistent, forward-moving action. Poor implementation or an overly rigid plan will often sabotage great outcomes.

Action: Execution starts when the Leader fulfills their responsibility to: 1. Clearly and consistently communicate the desired future state AND 2.) Secure the resources necessary for success. Wise leaders adjust goals when they are unable to fulfill one or both of these leadership accountabilities or when business circumstances change.

Myth: During times of rapid change, wait for clarity before acting.

Fact: While it is always wise to fully examine the circumstances surrounding change, complete clarity is typically hard to come by in the midst of a rapidly evolving business cycle.

Action: Just as in the previous example, leading an organization during times of heavy change requires clear communication and necessary resources, including employee education. Arming the team with information and expertise is a sure way to drive out fear and get ahead of the curve. Don’t be afraid to take action on the known and plot course corrections as new facts become available.

Myth: “There are no stupid questions.”

Fact: We’ve all heard stupid questions being asked in a business setting, let’s face it. The damage can be immediate as the collective perception of the individual goes down a notch. Various possibilities run through the listener’s mind – none of them good. Didn’t she/he prepare for this meeting? Haven’t they been listening? If this person does not grasp a fundamental concept, will they be a capable contributor?

Action: It is time to evaluate which of the many possibilities noted above is accurate. With this knowledge and the full engagement of the individual involved, a high impact remedy is possible. Ideally, the result is an improvement in this colleague’s ability to perform as a well-respected contributor.

Myth: Everyone’s opinion counts.

Fact: Leaders must make tough decisions. Facts and the wise consul of strong subject matter experts count. In many cases the opinions of the full employee population simply do not.

Action: Once a key business decision is made, the immediate next step is to inform others with a legitimate “need to know.” Although that sometimes includes all employees, partners, and customers, more often the audience is limited. A comprehensive communication plan with well-developed talking points will help the full leadership team engage in meaningful dialogue with those impacted.

Myth: Nice guys or girls finish last.

Fact: Committing to being the best version of you does not mean you are soft or a pushover OR that you will finish last. Many of the world’s most successful leaders are genuinely nice people who make deals and solve problems through the mutual relationships formed with people they like and trust.

Action: The work of staying humble and treating others as you’d like to be treated requires frequent, honest self-evaluation. Don’t be afraid to engage an effective career coach to help you stay grounded. It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to be compassionate. Your employees will respect you for being your genuine self: intelligent, bold, and kind.

Myth: The customer is always right.

Fact: No. No. No. In fact if the customer were always right, they wouldn’t need us. Your customers surely have fantastic ideas and insights, but so do you! Working together you can find the right path and solution set to achieve their goals.

Action: Regardless of the organization’s product or service, you have been chosen for the ability to favorably impact your customer. When they have chosen a strategy, product, or service that will not achieve the desired future state, it is your job to respectfully lead them to a better solution. Make the art of consultative guidance a part of your employee education program.

This group of business myths is far from complete. It’s important to note that, along with the many examples included here, many industries or individual organizations have their own set of myths that protect the status quo. Courageous leaders aren’t afraid to challenge long held beliefs regardless of their origin.

Guest Contribution by Jackie Larson, President, Avantas

Jackie is a healthcare industry veteran and recognized thought leader. She joined Avantas in 2008 and has been the driving force in building out the company’s client management, analytics, and consulting groups into world-class teams providing guidance and support to clients on a wide range of issues including workforce optimization, productivity, business analytics and more.

(Views and opinions of Guest Contributors are not necessarily those of