This is a guest post from serial entrepreneur, pastor, and leadership coach, Ron Edmondson. In episode 34 of the BoldIdea podcast, Ron talked about the myths of leadership. This post describes one of them.
My first paid leadership role came to me by default. I was a full-time college student working in the men’s department of a large retail department store. I had been at the store under two years when my boss quit suddenly to pursue other interests.
At 20 years of age, I had basically “arrived” in the field of leadership.
The store was located close to a university, so it was a great place to attract college students as employees. I remember the first time we had a big sale after I took over the leadership of my department. Popular in the day were “midnight madness” sales. We would close for a couple hours late afternoon, cover all our doors with butcher wrap paper to add suspense, then reopen in the evening with significantly marked-down items throughout the store. People would stand in line for hours prior to the sale and scramble to find the bargains as soon as we opened the doors.
I had added additional staffing for the evening—relying on the advice of others for how many people I should schedule. You can only imagine my disappointment—and embarrassment—when the doors opened and my understaffed department was flooded with customers. Two of my employees, both fellow college students, had not shown up to work this night. They did not call. It was before the days of cell phones, email or Facebook. I tried their dorm rooms and got no response. I was mortified—and angry.
The next day I ran into one of my “no-shows” on campus. I asked him where he was the night before and why he never called. He told me he had a test and realized he needed to study. He said he meant to call, but got distracted. It was not his regularly scheduled day to work, so he assumed he would not be missed.
I stood there awestruck—wondering how he could justify what he was saying to me. It was in this moment I realized he was not seeing me as his boss. In spite of my position of leadership, he saw me as another college student. I was his friend—his colleague—his equal. He seemed to think I would understand—he had a test—and could not seem to grasp my frustration. (Which made me even more frustrated.)
I learned through this experience a title does not make one a leader. There are people like me—who have been in positions for years—who actually believe simply having a title makes them a leader. People will look up to them, do what they request, and show them a higher level of respect. It is what I thought, but I learned the hard way—it simply is not true.
This is just one of the seven myths addressed in my book The Mythical Leader. When we act on these “myths” our leadership is greatly hindered.