Leadership Myth #3 – Leaders Must Have All The Answers

Colonel Chris Hadfield, in his marvelous book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”, notes that in any group a person can, “be viewed in one of three ways.  As a minus one: actively harmful, someone who creates problems.  Or as a zero: your impact is neutral and doesn’t tip the balance one way or the other.  Or you’ll be seen as a plus one: someone who actively adds value.”

A few years ago I was introduced to the concept of a Value Proposition: a description of the value that a consumer will derive from a product or service.  As I considered the myth that “Leaders Must Have All The Answers”, I realized that although the statement is false, there is a kernel of truth at its core; leaders must provide value to all of their stakeholders.

One of the challenges of leadership is that this Value Proposition may not be the same for each stakeholder.  I was having coffee last week with another former soldier, talking about our transition back to the civilian world and the challenge of trying to translate military experience into terms that civilians (and particularly civilian HR professionals) understand.  He declared with much satisfaction that he had been able to distill his impressive military resume into one succinct and powerful statement “I Get Stuff Done”.  He does.  And he has the track record in the private sector to prove it.  That’s his Value Proposition (although he didn’t use that term) to his employer.  But I noticed that he described things differently when talking about the team he led.  These are my words, not his, but it sounded very much like his Value Proposition to his team would be along the lines of “I Help You Achieve Greater Success”.  Two different Value Propositions, but one reinforcing the other.

What is your Value Proposition as a leader, what makes you a “Plus One”?  To your employer?  To your team?  To your colleagues? What is your Value Proposition outside of work? To your family?  To your friends?  Would you like to kick these questions around in a safe space with a skilled thinking partner?  If so, let’s talk about it!