How Assumptions Can Impact Your Ability to Lead

It is easy for me to detect when an organization is struggling with its leadership. Often, communication is severely lacking, people avoid essential conversations, and the flow of information or ideas slows down to a crawl. 

In many of these cases, the vacuum left by the absence of effective communication is filled with an increasing number of assumptions which can be highly dangerous for the wellbeing of an organization and for the people inside the company.

When communication disappears within an organization, assumptions take over and tend to wreak havoc if left unattended and cared for, and in today’s corporate workplace, that issue has intensified 10-fold.

I believe that making assumptions is directly tied to how leaders show up. I also believe that through the pandemic, the playing field is a little more level than ever in the past.

While leaders are still required to lead and empower their people effectively, they are being called on to be more “human” on the job, to tap into their own humanness as well as that of their employees. This takes Emotional Intelligence to a whole new level and it’s opening leader’s minds in a way that they’ve never been challenged to do in the past.

For instance, instead of regarding someone as an employee who “checks off boxes in a job description”, leaders are now becoming more conscious of what other attributes and qualities people bring to the table. This point among many others, is discussed in a very interesting McKinsey article about leading during the pandemic.

Leaders are being challenged to make decisions that were never part of their mandate in the past. They have had to support their people through extreme stress and learn to work remotely at the same time, and this has forced the mandate to make communication the number one priority a leader must focus on to be successful in their role. I have often written about the topic of communication and it is time to emphasize the importance of it in your daily interactions. 

When leaders let their assumptions about behavior and scenarios take the place of communication, they cut themselves off from their people, which alienates the workforce and can drive engagement downward.

The tricky thing about assumptions is that people do not always know when they are relying on them. Our brains create them as shortcuts designed to eliminate excess mental processing. The problem is that once they have been established in one’s mind, they tend to be enshrined there, never to be questioned again.

Inaccurate assumptions are typically unintentional blind spots, and they can be cured through self-awareness and a stronger commitment to communication.

Are You Guilty of Any of These False Assumptions?

  • Leadership is about telling people what to do – In reality, leadership involves asking questions and engaging in dialogue much more than it should involve giving orders to others. 
  • Leaders need to separate themselves and keep an “emotional” distance from their people – It goes without saying that this edict will never work in our new reality. Effective leaders engage in communication with their people regularly, and act as the stewards of ongoing, open dialogue within the organization.

  • Leaders are lonely decision makers – This is far from the truth now as leaders need to rely on their peers for support and feedback on an ongoing basis. There is simply far too much for any individual to handle, no matter how experienced they are.

  • Leadership means pointing out and fixing mistakes – Unfortunately, some leaders view their role as Critic-In-Chief for their respective organizations. Instead, they should offer constructive criticism as well as encouragement and praise. This all helps employees stay engaged, motivated, and productive, even in this new virtual workplace.

  • Leadership is all about power for yourself – Leadership gives you authority over other people within your organization, but the role of a leader is not to demonstrate power over others. Your job is to empower others and set them and the organization up for success. As I have said time and time again, leadership is not a role. It’s a way of being.

Changing the Assumption Dynamic

Most leaders are probably carrying several false assumptions around without them without even realizing that most beliefs reside at the subconscious level. We are hoping to raise your conscious awareness around your beliefs and what you need to do to challenge your own assumptions. 

Watch yourself as you go about your day. Are you on autopilot or are you approaching each moment as a chance to actively lead, support, and inspire others?

We Are Here to Help

If you would like to have a discussion around navigating your false assumptions, I would love to hear from you! Call me at 855.871.3374 or send me an email at to continue the conversation.

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