Leadership is a crucial aspect of any organization or community. Effective leadership involves guiding, directing, and motivating others to achieve a common goal. Learning how to do these effectively often comes from those providing leadership advice. However, not all leadership advice is created equal.
Some advice, known as pseudo-leadership advice, can be detrimental to individuals and organizations. This type of advice is not based on sound principles or proven methods but rather on personal beliefs, biases, or even manipulation. In this article, we will explore how authority bias and social proof can influence people to buy into and adhere to terrible pseudo-leadership advice and how leadership development programs provided by true leaderologists can help individuals and organizations avoid these pitfalls.
One of the reasons why people buy into and adhere to terrible pseudo-leadership advice is authority bias. Authority bias refers to the tendency for people to give more weight to the opinions or advice of individuals or groups perceived as experts or authorities despite not having any authority or expertise. This bias is often based on the belief that individuals or groups in positions of authority have access to special knowledge, expertise, or experience that makes them more credible or trustworthy than others. As a result, people may be more likely to accept the advice without questioning it, or they may be less likely to challenge or disagree with them.
Another reason why people buy into and adhere to terrible pseudo-leadership advice is social proof. Social proof refers to the phenomenon where people tend to conform to the actions and behavior of others in a given situation. It is based on the idea that people will often look to others for cues on how to behave, particularly in situations where they are uncertain about what to do. Social proof can manifest in many forms, such as observing the behavior of others in a group, looking at how many people have liked or shared something online, or being influenced by testimonials or reviews.
To fully understand this, we should examine a few popular quotes. The following examples are quite popular. However, these quotes are nonsensical when any level of critical evaluation is given. I theorize that these are so popular because of authority bias and social proof and because they sound nice on the surface.
“We cannot lead anyone farther than we have been ourselves.“
John C. Maxwell
The truth is that we can definitely lead people further than we have been ourselves. In fact, this quote not only flies in the face of over a dozen leadership principles, but if it were true, it would also negate every team-oriented first throughout history. Just think about the NFL coach that leads his team to the championship, having never played professional football himself. Think about Elon Musk leading his team to create a rocket that can be landed on its tail. Think about just about anyone involved in the Manhattan Project. These examples go on and on. Here’s another one.
“I want every little girl who someone says ‘they’re bossy’ to be told instead, ‘you have leadership skills.”
First of all, being a leader is not about being bossy. This mindset merely demonstrates that Sheryl’s perception of leadership is highly contorted. Second, if we were to replace a couple of words, it becomes easy to see how messed up this quote truly is. For example, I want every little boy who someone says ‘they’re a bully’ to be told instead, ‘you have leadership skills. That is terrible. Again, that’s not what leadership is about. Yet, her quote and my retort essentially say the same thing.
“Leadership is influence. Nothing more and nothing less.”
John C. Maxwell
Seriously? This is terrible advice and demonstrates the importance of ignoring both social proof and gurus trying to sell you something. Leadership is a lot more than influence. The truth is that leadership also involves setting goals, building relationships, making difficult decisions, and many other critical tasks. In this context, the emphasis is significantly less on influence and more on strategic decision-making, planning, and execution. Moreover, leadership is more than the individual leader’s influence, as demonstrated by the involvement of the follower, organizational culture, industry trends, and economic conditions. All that aside, I would still argue that leadership is more about vision than influence.
The sad truth is that I could provide well over a hundred popular quotes that fly in the face of the actual science of leadership. While these quotes make it seem that leadership is within reach for just about anyone, the truth is that these quotes are not only inaccurate but rather dangerous when you think about them. My advice is to be critical of the “feel-good” pep rally advice being shared on social media. With that in mind, I will share a quote that I do agree with.
“If you want to be wrong, then follow the masses.“
So, how can individuals and organizations avoid falling into the trap of terrible pseudo-leadership advice? One solution is to invest in leadership development programs provided by actual leaderologists, such as GrassFire Industries, LLC, in Wichita, Kansas. Doing so will help you better understand what leadership is truly about and avoid nonsensical advice. These programs are tailored to the individual and focus on personal and organizational development. They include leadership training and coaching rooted in the actual science of leadership, which can help individuals and organizations develop the skills and knowledge needed to make informed decisions and avoid the pitfalls of terrible pseudo-leadership advice.
Investing in leadership development programs provided by leaderologists can help individuals and organizations improve their leadership skills and achieve their goals. These programs are designed to provide a comprehensive approach to leadership development, and they cover a wide range of topics such as personal development, organizational development, and leadership training. With the help of these programs, individuals and organizations can build the skills and knowledge needed to make informed decisions and achieve success.
Remember, effective leadership is essential for any organization or community. However, not all leadership advice is created equal. Authority bias and social proof can influence people to buy into and adhere to terrible pseudo-leadership advice. Don’t be one of them! To avoid these pitfalls, organizations and individuals should invest in professional leadership development programs provided by leaderologists. Check the credentials!