7 Popular Myths about Leadership

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One thing I learned in obtaining a master’s in leadership is defining leadership is difficult.

John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.”

I love a simple definition. Simple works. Its effective and communicates.

Still, I have observed leadership is often not easy to define as a few simple words. In fact, there are many myths when it comes to even what leadership means — certainly how its practiced. I encounter people who don’t have a clue what real leadership is and what it isn’t.

Let me share a few myths I’ve observed.

Here are some 7 of my favorite myths about leadership:

A position makes one a leader

Really? I don’t think so. Some believe simply have a big or fancy title makes them a leader. Not true. I’ve known many people with huge positions whom no one was truly following. They may give out orders and command a certain obedience, but no one is willingly following their lead. They may be a boss, but I wouldn’t call them a leader.

If I’m not hearing anyone complain, everyone must be happy

Yea, right? Have you ever heard of passive aggression? The fact is sometimes the leader is the last to know about a problem. Some people are intimidated by leadership. Other times, they don’t know how to approach the leader, so they complain to others, but not the leader. And, sometimes, the way I’m leading dictates who tells me what I really need to know.

I can lead everyone the same way

I have learned this one is so not true. It simply doesn’t work. Actually, people are different and require different leadership styles. I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you want to be effective you will learn your people and alter your style to fit their personalities.

Leadership and management are the same thing

Great organizations need both, but they are not equal and they require different skills. Simply put — Leadership is more about empowerment and guiding people to a common vision — often into the unknown. Management is more about maintaining efficiency within a predetermined destination.

Being the leader makes you popular

Well, if only this myth were true — my file of criticism would be so much smaller — when in reality, in some seasons, it’s larger than my encouragement file. The truth is leaders can be very lonely people. (It’s why leaders must surround themselves with encouragers and comtinually seek renewal.) The only way to avoid criticism and be “liked” as a leader is to make no decisions, do nothing different, never challenge status quo — in other words — don’t lead.

Leaders must be extroverted charismatics

So not true. Thankfully. Some of the best leaders I know are very introverted and subdued. And, honestly, they are leading some of the biggest churches and organizations. Leadership IS about influence. If someone is trustworthy, dependable, has integrity and is going somewhere of value — others will follow.

Leaders accomplish by controlling others

Absolutely not. This is not leadership. It is dictatorship. Effective leaders encourage others to lead. They challenge people to be creative and take ownership and responsibility for accomplishing the vision. They learn to delegate through empowerment.

What other myths about leadership have you observed?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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18 thoughts on “7 Popular Myths about Leadership

  1. Hello,
    Well written article. Just because someone has a title does not automatically make them a leader. Which you stated and I agree with because they may come to realize a title is just a title and you must have certain skills to meet the expectations of a leader. Also, I agree with how you state extroverts are the only good leaders out there. This is definitely not true again like you noted I feel leaders whether introvert or extrovert does not matter what matters is how you coach others and show others how things are done.

  2. "If I am not hearing anyone complain everyone must be happy. So glad you included these on your list of leadership myths. I have witnessed company failures which can be attrbuted to commiting this very same mistake. Here comes the very important role of effective communication and feedback in leadership. A good leader must not only focus on communication from top to bottom, but must ensure a feedback mechanism is in place to facilitate a bottom to up kind of communication. This will ensure that ideas, opinions and feedback of followers are voiced out and acted upon the organization.

  3. Some other myths about leadership I have you observed:

    — Leadership is a function of academic success (In other words, good leaders have more education than other people)
    — Great leaders are expert at playing politics
    — Leaders are born and not made
    — Leaders know everything
    — Leaders are infallible
    — Leadership comes with age

  4. Nice article. I agree with you on all myths that you have described. In my opinion, Influence and Inspiration is the key. People often tend to influenced by just observing leaders. Several times our action and our presence is what catches people's attention and they get inspired to follow. Thanks for writing this article. It is a useful resource.

  5. Hi,
    Last many days I am searching some good article and I am very glad to find your article. This is very essential and informative information for me. I would like to say your post is superb and relevant my topics.

  6. These are important things to remember and know about leadership. I use to think having a title makes you a leader but now I know it does not. I have seen many people with a title who where not leader's while others who did not have a leadership position but where leaders. Great post!!!