Three Misconceptions in Leadership

Three Misconceptions in Leadership

Johanna Faries

Episode Summary

There is a looming pressure in meeting rooms to always make yourself known and your opinions loud. However, in effective leadership, real power can come in the form of calm and quiet.

Johanna Faries, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Activision Blizzard, shares her business principles in becoming an effective leader and trailblazer. So how does she excel and make her mark in cut-throat industries using quiet power?


Historically, there has been a bias towards the loudest person in the room. The dominating voice is often heard and followed since it carried “authority”. Most of us have been in that situation where you feel like you need to make your presence felt and contribute something smart in the conversation. This pressure pushes us to shift our attention away from the room and into our own heads. We instead tend to focus more on  preparing for the next good question and sharp suggestion.

Hear more than just what’s being expressed out loud. – Johanna Faries

As a leader, you can see a lot more when you are not in the thick of things, or when you take the perspective even from a short distance. When leaders talk less, and listen more, they can easily take into account nuances, details, and patterns not often seen by many people.

Resist the bias of achievement culture wherein you always need to say something really smart. There’s just so much you can do in going in observation mode. – Johanna Faries

For Johanna, there is so much power in being a sponge. A sponge is someone who is driven to seek and absorb new information around them. They go into meetings and read the room. They observe dynamics and get to know the people. They read between the lines, and really hear them out – all with the intention to learn.


There’s a misconception that the most successful business leaders are those who make work their primary lifestyle. This notion tricks us to always work with our heads down and get so caught up with the day-to-day. But the truth is different. Setting boundaries is any effective leader’s major skill set. This is their way of upholding their priorities and making sure they get the support they need from others.

Have a little courage to advocate for yourself  and have peers who will also advocate on your behalf. – Johanna Faries

How can you define your boundaries? Johanna shares an important tip: start from your values. Always take the time and space to remind yourself of your “Why”. Your guiding values could be your family, health, or time– anything that you are not willing to compromise. For instance, will this job take you away from your family? Is this something you can consider? From here, you can start weighing the trade-off and forming your decisions.

To honor your boundaries, you need to harness the power of saying no. This is one of the hardest things to do and comes with fears and mental gymnastics. For Johanna, this fear is not forever for as long as you practice it and be intentional about it. When you put it into practice, there will be a time that you don’t have to remind your team of boundaries anymore. It will be something recognized and respected by everyone.

Meaningful contribution

Every leader has pivotal choice points – to be proactive or passive, to be a creator or a consumer, or to be a trailblazer or a trend follower. Each decision that leaders make is a pivotal choice point. It determines their ability to make meaningful contributions in their communities and society as a whole.

I have this principle of always asking. ‘How do I or we as a team leave a place, a person, or a circumstance better than we found it?’ – Johanna Faries

The consumption and achievement culture have shaped leadership to be about getting to the next level, even at the expense of others. But to lead meaningfully, we need to counter that culture with the pay-it-forward mindset. Always look for the opportunity to help someone and leave the people in your team in a better spot than when you came in the door. In any given field, this is what makes a great contributor and all-around team player.

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