My morning ritual starts with a bowl of Musli, a cup of coffee, and bro.  wsing several news sites.  This morning I came across this story:  Missing treasure hunter’s remains found in New Mexico.  In short, an author and art dealer named Forrest Fenn hid $2 million worth of treasure in New Mexico and left clues on how to find it in a book he wrote in 2011.  In January, Randy Bilyeu went treasure hunting and never returned.  Months later, his remains were found.

Treasure HuntingTreasure Hunting

I have had the opportunity to observe some leaders who also seem to be on a great treasure hunting adventure.  To some degree, that sounds great!  Somewhere, out there, there is a mysterious buried cache waiting to be discovered.  You are, as the leader, responsible for leading your company to this mysterious boxed up treasure chest of “success.”  The chest is there, you have all the clues, you need to just set out and find it to prove yourself as a leader.

But leadership rarely really works like that.  In reality, there is no buried treasure chest of success that someone magically discovers that brings recognition to their leadership abilities and profits (or whatever measure you use to measure) to your organization.  The reality is, most leadership is more long-term investment of time and energy, learning to slowly collect successes and quickly recovering from failures.  And the sooner we step back from the lies from the cult of leadership, the better for us all.  Here are some common leadership “treasure chest” myths:

Treasure Chest Myth #1 – The right vision statement guarantees success.

I think vision for an organization is important.  I am always amazed by how long people spend coming up with a vision statement.  Vision statements are important.  They can be unifying.  The provide clarity.  The provide focus.  But too often people think they have finished the battle when a committee has finally agreed on the perfect wording for the vision statement.

The statement shows up on the website, is printed on posters, and is shared with every member of the organization – and nothing happens.  Of course not!  Somewhere along the way the treasure became the perfect statement – and the energy for the vision was lost.  This is more than just splitting hairs.  A statement helps everyone understand what the vision is.  But don’t put more focus on the statement than on the vision itself!

Treasure Chest Myth #2 – There is one great treasure for your organization.

Treasure hunting is so alluring.  The idea that we can discover a hidden wealth is attractive to kids and adults.  The amazing success of Pokemon Go, as people search for rare imaginary creatures is proof of that!  As a college student, I once discovered a buried box in one of our National Parks.  I carefully dug it up, lifted up the lid, and found someone’s buried family pet instead of the box of hidden gold and jewels I was expecting.

Treasure hunting as a leader is also alluring.  Conference after conference and book after book promise the secret to success in organizational leadership. The hope is always that the next secret learned will give the perfect solution or the perfect strategy for organizational health. But there is no one size fits all leadership solution.  As a leader in your organization, you need to determine what the small individual steps are that lead to long-term success.  Conferences and books help us discover trends, or help us find our own strengths or weaknesses – but cannot bring success on their own.

Treasure Chest Myth #3 – Success brings recognition and fame

If your reason for being a leader is achieving recognition and fame, chances are you will be disappointed.  How many leaders of Fortune 500 companies can you name?  If you are not dedicated to bringing recognition to something greater than your own reputation or personal brand, you will never be satisfied with the result of your treasure hunting.  Level 5 Leadership, as defined by Jim Collins, consists of the almost paradoxical combination of professional will and personal humility.

Level 5 leaders realize that the longevity of the company and raising up the next generation of leaders is far more important than raising theiro wn personal worth.

What other myths would you add?  In what ways have you gone “treasure hunting” as a leader, and found that it brought more harm than good?