Career Trends: 5 Leadership Clichés and how they should be reimagined

4 min read

Edition: December 2nd, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Many leadership tips have become cliched with time. (Image Credit: Bigstock)

Leadership training is a $366 billion global industry, with writers and podcasters bringing fresh energy to the space in recent years. Leadership literature can be a brilliant tool: for inspiring change, motivating success and encouraging leaders to strive for better.

But with so much information out there, the leadership advice market can be overwhelming.

The most oft-cited thinking around leadership is still the best. Many new interviews, books, blogs, etc., are in fact just the time-worn tenets of leadership repackaged. 

Instead of reinventing the wheel, reimagining classic principles of great leadership can be an effective way to usher in best practices and motivate teams.

Here are 5 leadership clichés that are worth re-interpreting for the startup generation!

1. Lead by example 

  • Courage and vulnerability are the cornerstones of great leadership. Also, stepping up, being brave and not shying away from challenges.
  • The modern definition of leading by example should centre around showing your team your humanity and exemplifying positive ways to solve problems.
  • Gone are the days when ‘leading by example’ meant bluster, bravado and being the loudest person in the room.

2. The customer is always right 

  • We are talking about the customers, clients, investors, and stakeholders who business leaders must work with and impress every day.
  • In the modern workplace, when a frustrating situation with a client arises that doesn’t align with your thinking, reminding yourself that ‘the customer is always right’ can help you see things from their perspective and deliver delight. 
  • Knowing that ‘the customer is always right’ need not be about rolling over and saying ‘yes’ to every request, but about learning to negotiate and present your view to unhappy customers in a sympathetic yet assertive way.

3. There are no stupid questions 

  • It might sound patronising, but the ‘no stupid questions’ mantra is incredibly valuable when it comes to building a supportive culture that values learning and curiosity.
  • A culture where there are ‘no stupid questions’ creates safe spaces for everyone – no matter how junior or senior – to voice their curiosity without feeling shame or inadequacy.
  • An environment that values this kind of open dialogue breeds creativity by allowing every idea or question to be brought to the table freely and without judgement.

4. Think outside the box 

  • Thinking ‘outside the box’ can be easier said than done. Often, when we’re called upon to deliver a big, creative idea, our minds draw a blank. 
  • While dismissing an idea that isn’t fresh enough with a command to ‘think outside the box’ isn’t generally useful, thinking beyond the usual parameters of what’s realistic when ideating definitely is.
  • Starting with ideas that are outside the realm of feasibility can breed creativity and spark original thought in others. It’s far easier to scale back wacky ideas than it is to scale up ideas that lack vision.

5. Open Door Policy 

  • Like any tenet of great leadership, this one is empty if it is not genuinely intentioned and acted upon. Saying that your door is open doesn’t actually open it.
  • But creating space for employees to come to you – and being attentive, approachable, and present when they do – can make a world of difference to their satisfaction at work.
  • It’s empowering for employees to know that they can come to leaders with their questions, concerns and ideas.
  • Employees no longer need to brave a leader or manager’s office if they want a quick chat or to sound something out.
  • Because the barriers to access are that much lower, leaders are in a strong position to open a dialogue with employees and leave the metaphorical door wide open for when they need it.
  • Blocking out time in your calendar each week when everyone knows you are available for informal one-to-ones can help you manage your time effectively whilst also making time for your team.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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