Debunking the Leadership Myths: A Prosek Executive Roundtable with McChrystal Group’s Jeff Eggers

Hal Bienstock  Follow

What image comes to mind when you think of a leader? Most likely it’s a charismatic man - and most people do think of a man – delivering inspiring speeches that spur his team to new heights. Often this person is tall and handsome. Think George Clooney or a young Ronald Reagan.

According to Jeff Eggers, Executive Director of McChrystal Group Leadership Institute, it’s time to put that image away. At Prosek’s latest professional development roundtable for C-suite financial services executives, Eggers explained that what most people think of as leadership is completely wrong.

Sharing lessons from the book “Leaders: Myth and Reality,” which he co-authored with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Jason Mangone, Eggers laid out three myths about leadership that need to be debunked:

  • The formulaic myth. According to Eggers, there is no formula for good leadership. Context – both internal and external – drives leadership as much as the leader does. That’s why someone can be a brilliant coach or CEO in one setting yet fail to deliver even remotely similar results when he or she goes somewhere else.
  • The attribution myth. This occurs when people mistakenly attribute cause and effect to leaders. The truth is that the system has as much impact as the leader, so in order to move an organization forward, a leader must understand how to work within that system and which levers to pull at which time.
  • The results myth. Leadership is often defined as the ability to get people to do something they wouldn’t otherwise be able to achieve. But real leadership isn’t just about getting results. It’s about providing a sense of meaning for people. Think about what motivates you to come to work. Is it about increasing sales by 20% (a result) or is it about being part of your company’s larger mission?

Knowing that good leaders are part of a system, Eggers suggests that people think about leadership differently. Rather than focusing on oratory or height, think of leaders as people with self-awareness, self-discipline and adaptability.

The great leader isn’t the one with a strong rallying cry; it’s the one who can intuit what their team needs and show up differently based on those needs – those that can calibrate. Sometimes unbridled confidence might be just what the doctor ordered. Other times, that same leader may need to demonstrate humility to let the team come up with the right answers.

To truly understand leadership is to understand the system and context from which it emerges. And to be a leader is to provide purpose and meaning to those within that system. Ultimately, that’s what drives people and teams to succeed.

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