The path to becoming a CEO is different for anyone with such ambitions. Each man or woman has their own story. But, far too often, there are stereotypes, myths and expectations about how they should lead and what image they should project. Here are a few such myths about business leaders.
They’re always positive.
A CEO may show a sort of professional optimism in public settings, but it’s not something that should be maintained at all times. Steve Tobak explores this in a story for entrepreneur.com.
“I know CEOs who are generally optimistic, pessimistic, and everything in between,” writes Tobak. “Mostly they’re realistic — at least the good ones are. And they don’t over-think things. Rather, they trust their gut and that’s what helps them make smart decisions. In any case, focusing on the positive can at times help, but it can just as easily lead to self-delusion and utopian thinking that holds you back.”
They work smarter, not harder.
Here’s a phrase we often hear when faced with stress and challenges. But is it realistic? Ekaterina Walter says “no” in a story for Forbes.
“I have never fully understood the ‘work smarter, not harder’ statement,” writes Walter. “There are definitely ways to be smarter about prioritizing your tasks effectively, planning your day wisely to increase your productivity, and, as a leader, to know when and what tasks to delegate. But every single successful person I know has always worked very hard on realizing his/her dreams. Great leaders empower their teams to do more, they are very protective of their time, and they are shrewd in applying their knowledge and experience in order to move forward and avoid mistakes either they themselves or others made in the past. One could call that ‘working smart.’ But nothing great has ever been achieved without working hard.”
Yes, there are successful people that come from rich heritage but plenty more came up the ranks the hard way. As Tobak writes in his entrepreneur.com piece, “CEOs don’t just drop out of the sky into cushy corner-office chairs. Most start with zilch and work their butts off for everything they achieve. Granted, some do come from money but not the majority. If anything, growing up with adversity gives you an advantage.”
They should always be “on.”
It would be exhausting to be “on,” as in wearing your title all the time, no matter if you’re a CEO, a clerk or a game-show host. Brian Evje writes about this for inc.com.
“While it is true that leaders are physically scrutinized more than non-leaders, it is a myth that a leader must actively ‘project’ leadership at all times,” writes Evje. “When a leader feels obliged to constantly ‘perform,’ there is little room left over for authenticity, reflection and mistakes. Sometimes the most appropriate approach is to turn leadership ‘off’ so that others may step up to the challenge.”
They have all the answers.
The boss must know everything, right? Of course not. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and good bosses will know their own, as Walter writes in her Forbes story.
“The best leaders have a clear understanding of their own limitations,” writes Walter. “They know that success is a team sport and there is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man. They realize that it takes a diverse team to truly innovate. They search for passionate people in diverse areas of expertise and bring them together. Great leaders listen more than they speak. They listen with the goal to understand, not the goal to answer. They hire amazing teams and solicit regular input from team members. They admit their mistakes and empower their people to execute on the company’s vision through their own knowledge and initiative versus a dictate from above.”