“I’ve heard it all before.”

Big mistake.

If you want to become a truly inspirational leader please, please don’t let these words slip out of your mouth.

I come across SO many people who are only interested in hearing something new about leadership. And as they tirelessly pursue their quest for new things they are willing to discount everything they have learned over the years as irrelevant – simply because they already know it. They are only interested in hearing something they have never heard before. They assume that because leadership is hard they just haven’t found the answer yet. It’s absolutely barmy – and yet surprisingly common.

Well I have good news and bad news. The good news is that a lot of unnecessary waffle has built up around leadership over the years. We can discard it without any problem whatsoever. The bad news is that however hard we look, there really is no such thing as the silver bullet. Leadership involves effort – and the best way forward is to focus on applying what you already know rather than diverting all your efforts into searching for something that doesn’t exist!

A couple of months ago I was speaking to a director about a seminar he had been to that week. He summed up his remarks with the words “It was nothing new – I’d heard it all before!” and then dismissed all of it.

Therein lies the problem

The world around us is filled with the frantic hunt for new answers and it’s easy to get swept up in the hype. Always on the hunt for something new – the latest thinking, the latest ideas. “If I learn this one new thing everything will fall into place – all I need to do is load the barrel with my shiny new silver bullet – and fire.”

Whatever the subject, the constant search for the shiny new silver bullet actually does nothing for simplicity – instead it creates more and more theories and models, faster and faster than ever before! The very thing we are looking for becomes buried deeper and deeper in extraneous information and the true message is impossible to find.

Leadership is a case in point. The constant search for the silver bullet of leadership has buried the true messages of leadership. When I last typed “leadership” into Google it gave 760 MILLION results – in half a second! There’s so MUCH stuff out there it’s impossible to find what you really need. Rather than the information era shedding light on leadership, the opposite is true – thousands of different models and concepts mean it has become shrouded in mystery – like a complex chemical formula only university professors can understand.

But leadership is simple. It’s not easy, but it IS simple.

A needle in a haystack

Did you know the average person in the UK spends almost 6 months of their life searching for everyday things like keys? And those of us with more stuff spend longer – because the more stuff we have to search through – the harder it is to find what we want. Searching 760 million results for the keys of leadership is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

I’m going to let you into a secret – people have been leading other people for a very long time. And the essence of leadership has been around for centuries. Millennia even. We don’t constantly need to find new answers.

Everything you ever need to know about leadership is covered in two simple but powerful rules. We have covered rule # 1 in an earlier post and will soon come to rule # 2.

So here’s my challenge to you. Forget the search for new answers – because the silver bullet is a myth. Instead, ask the question “what do I already know about great leadership?” Follow that question with “and what am I doing with what I already know?” Because leadership isn’t actually about what you know. I’m really not interested in what you know – I’m interested in whether you are doing it.

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Peter Anderton

Author: Peter Anderton

A sought after coach and change agent, Peter has spent many years in Organisational Development, focusing on developing high performance leadership teams, executive coaching, strategy and change. He builds relationships quickly and is as comfortable in the boardroom as he is at ‘grass roots’. Known for his integrity, energy and a real passion for making things happen, he has a uniquely direct yet supportive style that delivers.

Peter is a qualified NLP master practitioner, a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and a Chartered Engineer.