You may not be as good of a boss (or leader or manager) as you think you are.
Now, I’m not saying you are a bad person or that you aren’t trying to be a good leader. It’s just that there are different factors that may be hurting you, and you may not even know that it’s happening?
What are these factors?
1. You are part of the Dunning Kruger Club (and don’t know it)
First, there’s the Dunning Kruger Effect, also sometimes referred to as the armchair quarterback syndrome.
Ever notice how nobody ever thinks they are a bad boss?
The Dunning Kruger Effect basically states that the less you know about something, the more confident you are about what you think you know.
In reference to the armchair quarterback syndrome, think about someone sitting at home, wearing their team’s favorite uniform, and watching the game with great intensity.
They yell, they scream, they tell the coach how wrong each play is and what they should have done differently.
They know that if they were the coach, they would have called it differently – and correctly.
The problem is – that’s just not true. They think they know, but really don’t (at least in most cases – I mean, that one play….).
It’s similar with leadership. Many bosses and “leaders” learn a little bit about leadership – or think they’ve learned something. They maybe read a blog. They read a leader vs manager infographic. They know it.
And shoot, they are even in a leadership position, they obviously know what leadership is, right?
Position doesn’t equal knowledge.
Leadership is a skill and takes time and practice to learn. Whether piano or soccer or football or ceramics – you don’t just read a book or take one class and know it.
It takes time and practice to learn. It’s not just a piece of knowledge you quickly grab and have it.
So many leaders read a book or learn a little of what they think leadership is, and they think they are experts on leadership.
It’s like if I was learning to play guitar. I learn a few chords and can strum a few songs. I then think I KNOW how to play guitar.. but I don’t. Yes I know a little bit, but there’s so much more that I don’t know.
And that’s where a lot of leaders get stuck. They learn a little bit about something (and sometimes what they learn isn’t really that accurate), and they think they now know leadership.
It’s the curse of a little knowledge.
So, the first reason you may not be as good as you think you are because you’re a member of the Dunning Kruger club.
And, as David Dunning said, the #1 rule of the Dunning Kruger club is that you don’t know you are a member of the Dunning Kruger club.
Hopefully now you may have a hint if you are.
However, what makes the Dunning Kruger effect even worse is #2:
2. What you’ve been taught or have learned about leadership is wrong
If you look at all the blogs and articles and videos and memes and everything that’s out there (LinkedIn, oh my goodness), there’s so much out there that’s just not true.
You have one person saying one thing and another something else. Then you get to the Leadership vs. Manager memes, it can get even worse.
There’s some information that’s superficial.
There’s some’s that’s based on conventional wisdom, and, like most conventional wisdom, it’s generally wrong. If you follow conventional wisdom and if you follow much of what is out there, then you’re not going to be effective as a leader.
And then, of course, there’s the stuff that’s plainly false.
What’s worse is when people start getting trained based off conventional wisdom. They get trained based off things that aren’t true or that’s just superficial. The confusion that exists about leadership and management and being a boss and the differences hurt even more.
Not only that, often in “leadership” training, what one is trained on is the duties of their position and not the principles on how to actually lead someone.
On top of that, a lot focuses on you and your preferences and your strengths and your style instead of knowing the principles that make good leadership.
So, a lot of what people think leadership and management is and what makes a good leader is wrong. You may not be as good of a leader as you think you are because you’ve just been taught wrong.
Side note: if you hire a company to help you grow your leadership, and their focus is on knowing your style or discovering your strengths and are light on the principles that make good leadership – hire someone else.
This brings us to our third reason. You may not be as good of a leader as you think you are because:
3. You judge leadership based on what you’ve seen
Let me give you an example:
I used to work with kids in group homes. These kids would be pulled form their homes for a variety of reasons. I used to think negatively of these kids’ parents because they had done something to cause their kids to be removed from their home.
However, as I continued and then got involved in foster care, I realized how off my perspective was. Many parents are parenting based only on what they’ve seen. They themselves grew up with poor parents (or no parenting), so they are basing their parenting off what they experienced.
Many struggle with parenting because they don’t know better because they’ve never seen or have been taught better. (I’m not saying this is an excuse for any kind of abuse).
This applies in so many areas – including leadership.
Many people have lived their lives under bad and mediocre leadership. When they think of what “good” leadership is, they think of mediocre leadership, because that is the best they’ve ever seen.
They then praise mediocre and poor leaders as great and model after that, because that’s what they’ve seen to be good.
They are wrong, but they don’t know that, because they just don’t know better.
If you grew up eating grass, and the best food you ever had was grass with yellow flowers, you THINK you know what good food tastes like, but you don’t because you’ve never experienced anything better.
Your perspective is limited.
A reason you may not be as good of a leader as you think you are is because what you think great leadership is isn’t, because you’ve never experienced better.
And last, you may not be getting the results you want or be as good as a leader as you think you are because:
4. You have the wrong motive
Patrick Lencioni in his book The Motive says there’s only really two main motives: a selfish one and one of service.
Many leaders are in it for the perks and rewards. They see their people as there to serve them, not them to serve their team and organization. Their focus is on their career and goals and ambitions, not the mission or their team. They may be there for the corner offices, special parking spots, respect, money, and so on.
They may see it as a reward for their hard work and just focus on coasting, or they focus on their status and image.
Because of that, these leaders don’t do the hard work required to be a great leader.
The thing is, you’ll never be a great leader if that’s your focus.
Great leaders have a service focus. They put serving the mission and the team over serving themselves. They see themselves as serving their team so that they can be their best to accomplish the mission, not the other way around. They do the hard work of leadership because it’s their job as a leader.
My question to you, then, is, “What’s your motive?”
You can be a great leader
The four big reasons you may not be as good of a leader as you think you are is:
- You are part of the Dunning Kruger Club
- What you have learned or been taught about leadership is wrong
- You judge leadership off of what you’ve seen, and all you’ve seen is bad or mediocre leadership
- You have the wrong motive
Do you see yourself in any of these? Are you not sure if they apply to you?
It’s okay if you aren’t the best leader right now or if you’ve been part of the Dunning Kruger club. It’s okay if you have had the wrong perspective about leadership.
What matters now is that you work to get it right.
Make sure you have the right motive, and begin learning what truly great leadership really is.
Ignore the memes and posts on socials, and dive deep into this site and great books to learn what great leadership is so that you can be the best leader possible.
For starts, you can check out this article on the core principles that make great leaders right here.