All of us have things we are good at, and things we aren’t. Sometimes we develop strategies to overcome our weaknesses and other times we lie to ourselves to justify our action (or inaction). The cost of these lies is high, both in terms of our personal growth and our relationships.

Over many years of leadership coaching, here are the more common ‘untruths’ I’ve heard or observed from leaders:


‘It’s my job to make all the decisions/have all the answers’

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard businesses talk about a bottleneck at the top when it comes to decision making. If we hired our team for their knowledge and expertise, then we need to let them use their judgement. We might be surprised at how much they actually want to help. And if they make a mistake, what a great opportunity for us to coach them for next time. Failure is the foundation of innovation and learning.


‘If I ignore it, it will get better on its own’

Will it? Will it really? In my experience it usually gets worse, rather than better. Yes, that conversation might be difficult and yes, you might upset that person. But what if you are the only one who will be honest with them. If the situation were reversed, wouldn’t you want the feedback? For someone to give you the opportunity to grow and improve?


‘As a leader, I must be in control’

For some of us micromanaging is our default leadership style, for others it creeps in when the business is under stress or someone isn’t performing. By being over-controlling, we might well be on top of the detail, but we stifle initiative, quash innovation, and damage trust. It’s important to note that we cannot truly control anyone, we can only influence. Have an inspiring vision, set clear goals, delegate reasonable authority, and then trust them to get the job done.


‘I don’t have time’

I hear this most often when I’ve asked a leader to have that difficult conversation they don’t want to have. The damage and repair work that comes from not having these conversations, is usually far more time consuming than having the actual talk in the first place. We need to make time to have the important conversations and do what is right.


‘I don’t judge people’

We all judge people. It is human nature. Studies say a first impression is made in seven seconds. The important thing is to be conscious of your judgements and don’t let them shut down your view of that person or situation. Judgements are usually based on incomplete information. Remain open and curious.


‘It’s not my job to say something’

Whose job is it then? Another leader, HR, a colleague or maybe you should wait until one of your customers complains? Putting aside formal disciplinary discussions, if you observe something you don’t like, as a leader you have a responsibility to say something. Otherwise we end up in the situation where you tell someone else, in the hope that they’ll deal with it. By the time it gets back to the person, if at all, the time delay and opportunity for them to ask questions has been lost. Plus, they are left wondering why you didn’t approach them directly.


‘I don’t want to upset them’

Ask yourself this, are you more worried about upsetting them or how uncomfortable it makes you feel? It’s likely to be more upsetting for them to know you, and others, think something about them but don’t have the courage to tell them. We needn’t fear tears or anger, in most cases it shows they care. Prepare for the meeting. Make notes about what you want to say and how you might handle their reactions. Showing them respect and that you are interested in them, will be worth the few tears the conversation might create.


‘I am a good listener’

Most of us like to think we have good listening skills, but being a good listener is more than nodding along, waiting for our turn to speak. In their article ‘What Great Listeners Actually Do’ Zenger and Folkman’s research shows good listeners: use the interaction to build the other person’s self-esteem; see a conversation as cooperative (feedback flows smoothly in both directions); and tend to make suggestions. The art of listening is a skill we continually need to hone and perfect.


You can’t be a good leader without self-awareness and that self-awareness comes from taking an honest look at yourself. What lies do you tell yourself? What action are you going to take to counteract them?



Claire Huntington has over 15 years’ experience in senior and executive level human resource management and strategic leadership positions. Claire learnt HR under the wings of great mentors and through trial and error. She has a very practical hands-on approach to HR and management, and isn’t afraid to look outside the box. Claire is also mum to three primary-school aged firecrackers and is an avid photographer in her spare time.



Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.

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