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Let’s knock the mythical leaders off their pedestals
Myth-ing the Point
The more I write about the importance of learning to relax and lead, the more I seem to come across leadership advice that preaches the opposite. I was reading something the other day that made me cuss out loud. It was written by a quasi-motivational writer whose stuff I normally enjoy, which made me feel even worse when I read it.
Here is a tiny quote from the article, just to give you a taste: “Leadership is grueling and being a leader, while respectable, is a twenty-four hour a day position with no breaks. You will find that there is no off switch.” I won’t tell you who wrote it because that’s not the point.
The point is that this understanding of what it takes to be a leader seems to be taken from a high-level overview of the mythical leaders we read about in business publications and countless self-improvement books. The message from the article I referenced above can be summed up like this: If you want to be a true leader, then you have to be willing to be “on” 24/7 and be responsible for everything. It’s all on you, so you need to be ready to put all of your heart, soul, time, and attention into it!
I suppose it makes for a great pep talk at a small tech start-up but I believe it’s terrible advice for almost every other leadership position and it’s the opposite of what it means to be a Relaxed Leader. It’s an understanding built on myths, so it’s safe to say they’re myth-ing the point.
It’s not a Myth-tery
Just to be clear, I’ve never worked in a tech start-up (or any other kind of start-up) and I’ve never earned my living from a small business or passion project. If you need advice on how to survive those environments and stay healthy while maintaining a breakneck, non-stop pace, then I’m probably not your guy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to working long hours – occasionally. When you’re doing meaningful work, the inspiration and satisfaction is enough to get you fired up and keep you going – for a while. Doing what you’re truly passionate about can power you to take on the world – okay, not really, but you see what I mean.
Very few people are cutout to work 12+ hour days, 7 days a week, or be “on” every minute of every day. Even the mythical status held by some billionaires and titans of technology is almost always knocked back down to earth when we get to see behind the curtain. Substance abuse. Anger management. Harassment and a hostile work environment. Depression. Divorce. And on and on and on. This is well-known – it’s not a myth-tery at all – so don’t ignore it.
Do all of these things happen to regular people? Absolutely! And that’s my point – they might not be regular but they’re still people. If you look up to them, want to be like them, and think of them as role models, don’t forget they are still people and they’re not perfect. They have their faults and failings, and the non-stop stress can get to them too. It might not impact their outward success – at least not for a while – but a Relaxed Leader isn’t just concerned about the outward trappings of success.
Stop Myth-construing Things
To be blunt, none of this really matters to most of us who find ourselves in leadership positions. Sure, we might daydream occasionally about making millions running our own successful business but then we come to our senses and realize there’s no shame in what we’re already doing.
Unfortunately, there are lots of people out there who are telling us otherwise, asking us why we’re working for someone else when we could be working for ourselves. They paint a rosy picture, showing us the best day of being an entrepreneur, and then compare it to the worst day of “working for someone else.”
It’s a false comparison – they’re definitely myth-construing things – but it’s something I’ve fallen for many times. Not the “get rich quick” scams but rather the “follow your passion and turn your side hustle into a 6-figure income” stories of success.
Unfortunately, for every entrepreneur success story, there are thousands of other stories of people pouring their hearts and souls into their side hustle or passion project... and never making a dime. The gurus who say they can teach you to turn your side hustle into a wildly successful business will generally downplay those “not successful” stories because, well, marketing. They’re selling a product or service. Can you blame them?
Your choices aren’t that limited though. Your choices aren’t limited to “accepting the daily grind,” “being your own boss,” or the recently popular option of simply quitting, as we’re witnessing in what’s being called “The Great Resignation.”
There’s at least one other option and it’s the one I write about. Especially if you’re in a leadership position, you can learn to improve the situation for yourself and those who work with you. Instead of starting your own business, resigning yourself to a shitty job, or walking out the door, why not figure out how to rock the 9-to-5?
Not a “Hit-or-Myth” Thing
So let’s bring it back to where I started this little diatribe. Rocking the 9-to-5 doesn’t require leaders to be “on” and available 24/7/365. Being a great leader doesn’t mean you need to be responsible for everything and be all things to all people or any of those other over-the-top descriptions I’ve been stumbling across lately. And unlike that side hustle selling crocheted iPhone covers, rocking the 9-to-5 isn’t a hit-or-myth thing because the correct approach takes most of the randomness and dumb luck out of the equation.
We have an entire generation of new leaders who are getting burnt out faster than we can create them; and we have plenty of seasoned leaders who are struggling to maintain balance in an “always on” world. This is not a sustainable approach to running a business, a government agency, a non-profit, or any other kind of organization. There are better ways of doing it, and one of those ways is to learn how to RELAX and lead.
Review/Reflect to focus on “priority management” instead of “time management.”
Empower others to help your team become a force multiplier.
Leverage coaching moments and strong relationships to drive continuous improvement.
Amplify your team – their voices, ideas, and successes – to keep them supercharged.
Find your X-Factor – the special talent or skill you bring – and truly bring it every day.
Bottom Line (to avoid Myth-Understandings)
If you use the RELAX formula, you’ll become a leader people love to follow and your team will accomplish amazing things. You’ll not only have the outward trappings of success – the awards, accolades, and monetary rewards – you’ll also be less stressed and your quality of life will improve. You won’t need to be “on” 24/7. In fact, you’ll be able to go on vacation feeling confident that your team will take care of everything while you’re enjoying some well-deserved leisure time.
And here’s another great thing about learning to rock the 9-to-5 by becoming a Relaxed Leader: anyone can do it without staying up all night doing a “side hustle” or facing the uncertainty of quitting your job.
Let’s clear up all these myth-understandings:
To succeed, you just need to RELAX and lead!
Fortune Cookie Wisdom
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… including you.”