Leadership has, for ages, been an incessant topic of discussion in organisations. With every such new discussion, we find yet another add-on to the already dragged out list of leadership myths. Myths about leadership date back to the 20th century when psychologists and sociologists started formally studying various practices of influence. For instance, in ancient Greece, only men with potbellies were thought to be great leaders and in Celtic lands, birds were thought to bestow leadership powers.
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So here are a few common leadership myths of our times, which we thought were best debunked. Hold on, the bubble is about to burst.
No, leaders do not come with a leadership qualification pinned to their birth certificates! But yes, leaders ARE born. The ‘how’ makes all the difference.
A willingness to work, develop, learn, contribute and co-ordinate is what gives birth to a leader, of course, not a chromosome. The distinction interpreted is the distinction made.
Another widespread myth is that leadership is management. However, these are two widely distinguished disciplines. If you are a manager, you are focused on maintaining systems, processes, and determining the best practices for your company. But if you are a leader, you will find that much of your time is spent working to influence people. They are both important roles, but definitely not the same.
In his book, Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz asserts: “The myth of leadership is the myth of the lone warrior: the solitary individual whose heroism and brilliance enable him to lead the way.” This myth has become so pervasive in certain organisations that people often shed their responsibilities and accountability during crisis situations in the hope that the leader will save the day. Leadership, rather than being the solitary responsibility of a single individual, is a collaborative activity.
Power never determines a leader, his capability does. A leader can rise even from the bottom line of the chain if there is a scope for effective processing of ideas and an ability to make them happen. Power is not a default factor resting in a leader’s hand. It does come eventually, but only when the entire team works for it as a single unit.
While it is true that leaders are physically scrutinised more than non-leaders, it is a myth that a leader must actively ‘project’ leadership at all times. When a leader feels obliged to constantly ‘perform’, there is little room left for authenticity, reflection and mistakes. In the endeavour of success, mistakes are mandatory.
Fear is natural and necessary, and cannot be eliminated. According to author and organisational thinker David Whyte, fears need to be identified so that we “are not blinded when we face an unknown”. We do not always have to overcome our fears; we need to know what we are afraid of. And, this is what makes leaders stand out from the crowd.
The list of myths is endless. However, what is necessary is that an individual, as a part of an organisation, understands that leadership comes only when it is sought for. Leadership is a collective instinct and the leader can rise only from among followers.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)