The Leadership Fallacy

How many times have you heard someone say some variation of the following phrase: “If I was in that situation, I would have _____.” Feel free to insert whatever strategy or action you like into the blank, the underlying error is the same. In fact, it is one of the greatest professional failings that I see on a regular basis—especially amongst younger leaders and entrepreneurs.

That failure is something I call the Leadership Fallacy: people trying to use their values, morals and leadership principles to figure out what someone else may or may not do.

Logically, this is absurd; professionally, it’s misleading and counterproductive. What you would do is irrelevant; you have to think about what someone else would do, given what you know about them. As a leader, the inability or unwillingness to see another’s perspective means that your own decision-making abilities will be compromised. Effective leaders understand that they can’t apply their decision-making framework to other. Instead, they work to understand their motivations and perspectives. They work to put themselves in others’ shoes and figure out how they look at the world.

If you can do that successfully—figure out what variables someone else is considering and determine what is likely going through his or her mind—you can anticipate mistakes they might make and either help them avoid those mistakes or beat them to the punch, depending on what is more advantageous to you professionally. It is precisely because our different individual “software” drives us to react to situations differently, that it’s so important for a successful company to have its own set of values to drive strategies and behaviors.

The most successful companies structure their decision-making around those shared values, instead of those of specific individuals, thereby avoiding the perils and pitfalls of the Leadership Fallacy.

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