If you’re having a conversation with someone about leadership myths and great leaders, you will often hear a stereotypical representation of one specific kind of leader. They’re highly educated, great orators, and they have a natural instinct for leadership.
While most of these things are traits that leaders can have, they aren’t a requirement for leadership. Leadership is about having an open mind, being thoughtful, encouraging, and confident.
Let’s take a look at 8 leadership myths and their corresponding facts about leadership qualities:
1. Effective Leaders Have a High Standard of Education
Leadership isn’t a degree. It’s a personality trait. It is often thought that successful leaders need to have the right kind of education.
The premise of this belief often lies in the fact that education helps you cultivate a behavioral skill set that allows you to lead. While this is partially true, this skill set can be acquired outside of formal education.
Walt Disney was one of the greatest innovators and leaders of the entertainment industry. With education until 8th grade, the lack of formal education didn’t define his impact on the industry.
This is exhibited in the legacy he leaves behind, with his work still revered among many.
Fifty-three years after his death, the company he founded has launched its streaming service called Disney+, competing with modern giants such as Netflix.
This shows that for leaders, education is never a hindrance and neither a qualifier for their skills.
2. Leaders Are Born
You will often hear the phrase, “great leaders are born.” Leadership is not genetic. This concept needs to be debunked.
Leadership is about having a strong vision for both short-term and long-term success. It involves developing the skills to analyze problems and their best possible solutions.
You can’t look at a newborn child and say, “This child is destined to be a doctor.” You also can’t predict a child to be a leader.
Leaders are known for their interpersonal skills, their creativity, and their problem-solving attitude. All of these traits can be learned from experience, allowing an individual to become a leader in their industry.
3. Great Leaders Must Have Technical Expertise in Their Industry
There is a common belief that leaders need technical skills for success. This is a misrepresentation of the kind of knowledge that leaders need.
Leaders need to be knowledgeable and have the right information about their respective industries. They need to know what the right step forward is and not necessarily the technical understanding of how to do that.
Most companies have CTOs and other technical experts to guide the “how-to” process. For leaders, it’s far more critical to know “what’s next” based on their knowledge of industry trends, market dynamics, and competitors.
4. Leaders Talk a Lot
It is often assumed that leaders need to be great orators and be word-heavy in their interpersonal dealings. While this trait is more commonly found in leaders, it’s not a necessity.
Leaders need to be precise. They need to be bold and to the point. The clarity in their words is what sets them apart from everyone else.
They don’t exaggerate or make false promises and are incredible listeners. Being quiet is not a negative trait for leaders. People who listen more will always be less wordy when speaking. This shows how engaging they are in conversation and can make others feel important by merely listening.
That is a sign of a great leader, effective communication, listening, and sharing space with others for cohesion.
5. Failure is Not an Option
Leadership is all about risk-taking. Critical thinkers will plan. They’ll analyze and implement what they think is the best course of action.
More often than not, leaders will fail or struggle to find success. Take, for example, the famous American industrialist Henry Ford. The founder of Ford Motor Company, which became the first to implement assembly line manufacturing for cars, Ford had some immense struggles along the way.
Ford’s first two companies, Detroit Automobile Company and Henry Ford Company, both failed within their first two years. This didn’t stop Ford from getting his gears going for the third time with Ford Motor Company.
In 2018, Ford’s total revenue was estimated to be around $160.3 billion. Failure management is part of being a leader, and how to rise from that is what defines them.
6. Leaders Are Perfect
Leaders are revered as a beacon for guidance. But they’re not perfect by any means. They are as human as any other person.
The crucial difference between leaders and the rest of the world is that they’re introspective. They reflect on their weaknesses and work on overcoming them.
The constant struggle to be a better version of yourself is what makes you a leader. Personal diaries or journal entries are one way people can evaluate themselves and strive to improve themselves.
7. Charisma and Being Extroverted Defines a Leader
Charisma and being extroverted are not qualifiers for people to become leaders. Leadership is about taking charge of situations and taking ownership.
It’s perfectly acceptable for leaders to be less public or not overtly confident. They don’t even have to be in a decision-making position. Leaders exist at each level of employment. They improve themselves, help others grow, and have a clear direction in mind without necessarily preaching it on a loudspeaker.
8. Teams Who Only Do What They’re Told
Leaders are not managers. They can be, but they don’t have to be. A leader understands that their team is more than just an assembly line. For them, it’s essential to help the team grow as professionals and as individuals.
A leader can differentiate between being asked questions and being questioned. As great listeners, they encourage other voices to be heard and noted for a healthy conversation and a better work environment.
A leader’s real victory is to inspire others to become a leader in the future and help them navigate their way to leadership. They can inspire, empower, and encourage their team toward constant improvement in the long run.
Which Leadership Myths Need to be Debunked?
If you have ideas about leadership myths that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
Would you like to contribute a post?
Great article! I’m a leader and happen to be a manager of a large team. I’m an introvert and often told I need to try to be like the stereotypical leader you describe in the article. This perspective is wonderful and refreshing for all leaders like me.
Thanks so much,
Wonderful article Ryan. Here’s my take on leadership –
A Resposibility, Influence (John Maxwell), Esprit de Corps Builders, Serving the needs of others, developing other leaders.
Thanks for the article.
It is goodtime to read your article , thanks Ryan.
My thoughts about leadership is : about regularly setting goals, tracking your progress toward those goals, and making changes to your business.