10 Popular Myths About Leadership and How to Overcome Them
Close your eyes for a second and conjure-up a mental image of a leader. What do you see? Do you picture a politician, CEO or military leader? It’s easy to see why these type of images come to someone's mind. Leaders are often viewed as someone who is decisive, smart and outgoing. In some cases, leaders may appear just a little bit intimidating.
The problem with an image that suggests an aggressive persona of authority is that it can prevent some potentially strong leaders from pursuing leadership roles or reaching their full potential. It's easy to misconstrue and have a misconception of what a leader is and isn’t.
With that in mind, let’s identify 10 of the most popular myth about leadership so that you can discover new opportunities and effectively take charge of your team.
1. Entrepreneurial leadership.
There’s an assumption that all entrepreneurs are natural-born leaders. The reality is that just because you had a fantastic and timely idea doesn’t mean that you’re capable of organizing, operating, and scaling a business -- even if that become a multi-million dollar business.
Even though you’re the “founder” of your business don’t automatically believe that you’re in the best position to be its leader. Leadership isn’t tied to a job description. It’s having a vision and getting others to buy into it, growing talent, listening, and influencing others. Those are all qualities that can come from an outside CEO hire, like what LinkedIn did with Jeff Weiner, to the lowest levels of your organization.
If you don’t feel that you possess strong leadership qualities, then it’s best to check your ego at the door and hand the reins over to who does maintain the best skills in leadership.
Related: The Entrepreneur as Leader
2. Leaders can’t show vulnerability.
Perhaps one of the most prevalent myths is that leaders, no matter the situation, must dig-in and stand their ground. If they accept fault, change direction, or listen to others, then that’s a sign of weakness. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Strong leaders own their mistakes so that they can learn from them. They’re receptive to feedback -- even when it’s negative. They don’t have all the answers. And, they show-off their humanity by listening and caring for their employees.
3. A great leader is cold, fierce and omnipotent.
I’m sure at some point you’ve worked with a leader who is a know-it-all. They act tough, talk a big game, and separate themselves from the rest of the team. Now, think about your performance while under this individual? I bet you weren’t as productive and motivated as you could have been, right?
Employees want their leaders to care for them genuinely. They want to feel respected. And, the employee wishes for their thoughts and concerns to be listened to with kindness. The best way to sharpen these leadership skills is by boosting emotional intelligence. Increasing your emotional IQ will help you become more self-aware, empathetic, and a better communicator. As a result, you’ll build a strong rapport with your team.
4. Extroverted leaders are preferred.
What’s the difference between extroverts and introverts? Most people believe an extrovert is how they act in social settings. Extroverts are thought to be more outgoing and confident. Introverts are considered shy and withdrawn. However, being extroverted or introverted has more to do with how we process information.
Extroverts work through problems by discussing them and seeking the advice and input from others. Introverts process their thoughts and conflicts internally. Because of these differences, it shouldn’t be surprising that extroverts are drawn to leadership roles. Being a leader means engaging with other people, right?
The reality is that not all extroverts are cut-out to be leaders. A lot of successful individuals, such as Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Marissa Mayer, are introverts. Just because you’re not the head of a department or comfortable in crowds doesn’t mean that you should sell yourself short. You may still possess the right leadership skills to inspire others.
5. There’s not enough time to develop leadership skills.
As with any skill worth having, it takes time to develop. Using the "no time" is a poor excuse. We all have the same 24-hours in a day. And, we’re all swamped. Somehow, plenty of other leaders can deepen their leadership skills without a problem.
The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s that you aren’t managing your time correctly. For example, waking-up 30-minutes earlier, batching related work, or delegating less critical tasks to others could free-up extra time. You can then use this time to read, take a course, or work with a coach or mentor.
6. Leadership is synonymous with management.
Assuming that leadership is synonymous with good management is another common myth about leadership. Adequate direction and guidance cannot always be equated with a good commander. There are some reasonably significant distinctions between these two roles, such as:
- Leaders create a vision; managers establish goals.
- Managers maintain the status quo, while leaders are agents of change.
- Leaders are self-aware and unique. Managers copy others and adapt and adopt others' leadership style.
- Managers control or avoid risk and problems, while leaders are willing to take risks.
- Leaders keep focused on the big picture. Managers work on short-term goals.
- Leaders learn something new every day; managers rely on their existing talents.
- Managers build systems, while leaders construct relationships.
- Leaders coach; managers assign tasks and provide guidance.
- Managers have employees. Leaders, on the other hand, have loyal and dedicated fans.
If you have a team with multiple or complex goals, it’s important to know the difference between leadership and management. You can then develop either your leadership or management skills -- depending on which you’re lacking. You may also want to consider finding someone to complement the skills that are scarce.
7. All leaders are trailblazers.
Being a trailblazer isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Trailblazers, after all, are ambitious, competitive, calculated risk-takers, and goal-oriented. At the same time, they’re also an independent and the driving force behind a business. An independent and driving force can make working with others a challenge.
For example, while you’re out impressing clients, investors, and customers through speaking engagements and pitches -- there’s no one back rallying the troops. While trailblazers can definitely get people to jump on-board with their vision, leaders know when to step back. A true leader or manager will recognize talent and work alongside this team in order to propel everyone towards a shared mission and vision.
8. My team members always tell me the truth.
They may not be lying to you completely. But, your team is probably only giving you half-truths -- especially if you are a hard character to deal with. You may be a complicated, emotionally depleted individual -- thus it should be easy to understand why you have problems being a leader. If an employee shares bad news with you and you overreact, then why would they open up to you again?
Your employees should be able to be 100 percent transparent with you -- but if you punish them, do you think they’ll repeat that same mistake? It’s not always easy to hear the truth. But, without all the information, you can’t make a more informed decision -- nor can you grow as a leader.
To encourage your team to tell you the truth, build a culture of calmness where you control your emotions. What’s more, focus on what to do next instead of pointing fingers and giving people a second chance. Make it easy to receive and provide feedback. Think about furnishing an online survey or focus groups conducted by a third party. When you have an outside source for company "tips" that ensures anonymity -- so that a team member doesn't have to be afraid of repercussions.
Related: 6 Tips for Hearing Tough Feedback
9. The best leaders roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
Obviously, "getting your hands dirty" doesn’t mean hiding in your office. There may times when you should be working side-by-side with employees -- as long as it’s on the right activities. As a leader, you should be primarily focused on tasks like decisions, priorities, and accountabilities. Non-leadership tasks should be automated, delegated, or outsourced so that you’re not draining yourself mentally or physically.
Remember -- lead with your work and not by prioritizing the work of others.
10. Leaders must always be “on.”
Finally, there’s a misconception that leaders are must be “on” 24/7/365. The truth is that everyone, regardless of the leadership position, needs a break from work. Checking your email throughout the weekend or when or vacation is a guaranteed way to burn yourself.
You need time away in order to reflect and focus on what matters, such as spending time with your family, exercising, or learning new information. By taking breaks, you can clear your head and de-stress. As a result, you’ll become a more energized, focused, and creative leader.