Much of great leadership is getting the logistics together well--that is, figuring out the how of whatever it is you need to accomplish. But the beliefs or philosophies you hold dictate your interactions and decisions, too, and some management ideas floating around the office are downright toxic.

The 3 most dangerous beliefs

Three management beliefs stand out to organizational change advisor Shawn Murphy as being particularly dangerous to your effectiveness and the potential of your business.

1. Money talks.

"Money is a short term motivator," Murphy says, "but it's influence on performance, in the long run fails to sustain excellence. When management believes money will motivate employees to do their best, they overlook more compelling ways to inspire high performers. Researchers Richard Ryan and Edward Deci find that autonomy, mastery and purpose give employees more control and say in how to achieve business results. If a company wants higher performance (which ones don't?), then they need to equip managers with the skills to give employees more control over their work (autonomy), provide growth opportunities while at work (mastery) and help employees understand how their work matters to stakeholders (purpose)."

2. It's just a job.

Murphy cites a 2018 Conference Board report that found that Generations X and Y believe that a calling is more important than clocking in and doing a job. Meaningful work also ranks high in terms of what makes a job a calling.

Managers are disconnected from this reality, however, because they fail to quantify their relationships. This makes it easy not to challenge the biases that long have helped them personally succeed. They continue to believe that benefits and pay will get workers excited and have a positive influence on retention. And they are dismissive of the commitment employees show when they sacrifice and prioritize their work over their personal lives.

3. It's just business.

"[In my personal interview for Work Tribes: The Surprising Secret to Breakthrough Performance, Astonishing Results, and Keeping Teams Together, storied] CEO Doug Conant, retired Campbell Soup CEO, says nothing of any significance comes from people who don't care. If a company disregards how employees feel about their role, the company's standing in the community or how they are treated, the business will carry an extra [burden--a] workforce that is disconnected from the company's mission; higher turnover; toxic cultures. Companies that want to create a sense of belonging--feeling valued, wanted and welcomed--need to change the narrative around how managers truly partner with the workforce."

How to leave the old, toxic ideas behind

Gallup's State of the Manager report asserts that a whopping 82 percent of companies fail to hire managers with the skills necessary to lead today's teams--that is, we're clearly hiring managers who aren't equipped with the new ideas and behaviors the workforce needs. But Murphy says that the best way to encourage others to abandon dysfunctional management beliefs such as those above is to model them--that is, you have to show their value through your own actions and outcomes. Upskilling managers thus is essential. Doing this requires

  • Raising a leader's self-awareness through emotional intelligence
  • Investing in mastering soft skills like giving and receiving feedback
  • Taking on conflict and knowing how to manage yourself as you do it

"These aren't new solutions," Murphy points out. "They are merely solutions that have been avoided because they take work, commitment to growth and openness to examine long-held beliefs. Employees don't want to be managed. They want to know they have a leader who will come alongside them, partner with them and help them succeed."

Replacing what doesn't work

Of course, if you're going to stop believing certain ideas, you usually have to adopt new concepts in their place. To this end, Murphy outlines a "leadership code".

  • "Be grounded in business fundamentals. This is the thin line between success and excess. Be mindful of marrying business needs with human needs, like belonging. Too much of one is no good. Too strong a focus on business fundamentals without integrating human needs feel Draconian and employees lose a sense of belonging. Too strong a focus on human needs and not enough grounding in business fundamentals create a country club effect where accountability to results is diffused by too strong a sense of 'how employees feel'.
  • Continuously elevate excellence. The team the trains together moves faster together.
  • Do it for the tribe. The team's health is paramount over individual super star's needs.
  • Know your position's province. Develop the emotional intelligence to understand that your role has an impact. Own the impact by knowing what it is.
  • Grow your leadership vitae. When you leave, your results speak louder than your talk. Know what you're leaving behind.
  • Know your center of gravity [(what you stand for)]. Lead from values and attitudes that promote team and individual success."


Because adopting new, better ways of thinking can be so disruptive and unsettling, you do well to connect with others who share your new vision and who can provide some accountability. Embracing transparency with your workers through the transition prevents you from reverting back to old ways, too, and it builds trust. Over time, working together with those who all those who support you at every level, you'll be able to establish a larger culture of leadership that's much more in tune to what modern business demands.

Published on: Sep 20, 2019
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