Leading others is a big responsibility and comes with many challenges and opportunities, particularly in the current workplace of high volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It is not a surprise that stress and anxiety are part of the territory of a leader. While specific events or threats cause stress, anxiety is an undifferentiated uneasiness by persistent, excessive worries due to existing or potential threats. 

A leader’s interpretations and assumptions exacerbate anxiety and might lead to pitfalls. This article describes five everyday leadership unconscious beliefs and how to reframe them for more peace of mind and leadership effectiveness. 

Leadership Assumption # 1: Leaders should know everything.

Leaders are not to be experts or have all the answers at the moment, even when it might be difficult to admit it to others. Instead, leaders surround themselves with talent and rely on the team’s expertise to lead. They should not feel insecure or worried about not knowing everything, especially when dealing with constant change in a rapidly changing business landscape. Having a growth mindset is about recognizing there is always more to learn and it is ok to be work on progress rather than the fallacy of pretending to know it all.

Leadership Assumption # 2: Leaders are confident all the time.

Leaders are human too. They are not always positive and confident, and even the most qualified experience Imposter Syndrome! They have huge responsibilities and experience moments of insecurity, especially when dealing with change and uncertainty. In moments of self-doubt, they recognize their emotions and find ways to recover. They ask for help from mentors, trusted partners, or a coach. They seek to regain confidence by reconnecting with their why and finding the courage to make crucial decisions with clarity, courage, and conviction, even the unpopular ones.  

Leadership Assumption # 3: Conflicts are harmful and must be avoided.

Many leaders feel uncomfortable dealing with conflict and wish they could avoid it at all times. It is not feasible to eradicate it and there is little value in avoiding it or resisting it. Conflict doesn’t always have to be negative. Healthy debates and respectful disagreements can lead to business growth. A good leader is accountable for resolving conflict and taking steps to prevent it, not in isolation. All employees -not just leaders- should participate in resolving workplace conflict and learn from it to drive the organization forward.

Leadership Assumption # 4:  Formal power is the only way to lead.

Having formal power does not necessarily equate to having influence. There are people in organizations who, without traditional authority, can significantly influence others. Trusted Advisors and reputable individual contributors can use innate leadership qualities to mobilize others toward common goals. Leaders who exert power without influence fail because dominating and controlling others out of coercion is highly damaging to the teams, the leader, and, ultimately, the organization. The secret is to be close enough to influence and far enough to lead.

Leadership Assumption # 5 The best leaders are charismatic.

In society, there is a misconception that the best leaders are charismatic, partly because charismatic people communicate with ease and charm, and these are highly valued skills in the workplace. Not all leaders are extroverted and that is not a bad thing. Introverts are great at listening, connecting with others at deeper levels, and finding ways to speak their minds without being in the spotlight. Introvert leaders can overpass charismatic leaders who might might overestimate their capabilities. or display narcissist tendencies creating toxic environments. These are some of the reasons why the best leaders are humble rather than charismatic.

What other assumptions might you make that keep you from feeling more confident in your role? For example, I have met leaders who think all the organization’s weight is over their shoulders. Others believe that they should operate under consensus all the time.

The beliefs you are harvesting about the type of leader you should be are increasing your leadership anxiety and might be awakening you at night. Next time you’re in the middle of racing thoughts, stop, ponder, and be curious. Instead of letting these unconscious beliefs dominate your feelings and actions, you can bring them to the surface and question them, so you can reclaim your peace-of-mind by reframing them.

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