6 Things I Had All Wrong About Leadership

When I started out in leadership, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what being a leader was supposed to look like.  After all, I had read the books and researched and had done my homework.  I was ready to be a leader!  It turns out, I had several things all wrong.  Thankfully my teams over the years didn’t run me out with pitchforks and mobs – they probably should have!  Maybe you’ve had the wrong idea about leadership, too.  Let me help you avoid some of the mistakes I made from the wrong ideas I carried.

1.  You need to do a lot of talking.

Leadership isn’t about talking.  It’s actually about listening.  Listening to your people, your teams, your family.  It’s about striving to understand what is actually happening, how people really feel, where changes need to be made.  It reminds me of something I was told during my childhood, “God made us with one mouth and two ears for a reason!”

2.  You need to be the smartest person in the room.

Leadership isn’t about being the smartest person in the room.  It’s about learning from every person in the room.  No matter what situation you are in, no matter where you are, you can always learn from the people around you.  When you fool yourself into thinking that you have to have all of the answers, you blind yourself to the answers that are already there.

3.  You have to have the most experience on your team.

Leadership isn’t about having the most experience.  It’s about leveraging the experience you have to move your team forward.  I was put into a charge nurse position less than 6 months after I graduated from nursing school.  I was leading nurses who had decades more experience than I had.  My supervisor wasn’t looking for a certain level of experience – she was looking for a willingness to guide the team together toward a common goal.

4.  You will always love being a leader.

Leadership isn’t always fun.  In fact, it can be very difficult, and very lonely.  I have shed countless tears over hurt that I’ve caused, and hurt that others have caused me.  Most days I do love leading, but there are also the days where I would like to never hear the word leader again.  Here’s the thing – it’s ok to have bad days and bad seasons.  It’s just not ok to stay there.  I keep a list in my desk drawer of reasons that I love to lead people – it’s there so that on the days when I don’t love leading, I can look at it and remember why I do what I do.

5.  You have to be ten steps ahead of your team at all times.

Leadership isn’t about being so far ahead that when you look back toward your team, you can barely see them or remember what they are currently facing.  Will there be times that you are ten steps ahead?  Yes!  But there will also be times when you are only half a step ahead. Don’t be so concerned with staying in front of your team that you forget what it means to be part of the team.

6.  Leadership is something you do.

Leadership isn’t something that you do.  It’s not a 9-5 job that you can turn on and off at will.  It’s impossible to take leadership off when you walk in the door at home, or when you go to a ball game.  What is it then?   It is your character and your actions and your thought processes and your heart.  Leadership isn’t something you do.  Leadership is who you are.


I wish I had known the truth about leadership when I first started out.  Maybe I wouldn’t have made as many mistakes.  But now I know what I had all wrong, and I have the chance to be a better leader because I know the truth about leadership.


I hope this will help you become a better leader, too!


3 thoughts on “6 Things I Had All Wrong About Leadership”

  1. Denise Hawkins says:

    I just read Chess not Checkers last night and have such a desire to learn leadership even at my age. Having been in a small dental practice for years, I had no experience in leadership and at my previous church it wasn’t taught or modeled really. Thank you for your good words!!

    1. That is a GREAT book!! It’s never too late to learn, Denise! The desire to learn is 3/4 of the battle!

  2. Dave says:

    Great post, Heather. Wish I’d known some of these things in my earlier youth, too.

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