Common Myths About Leadership

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Traditional leadership methods are on their way out. People are no more looking for just work, they are looking to make a difference and feel as if they matter in the larger scheme of things. This need is creating leaders at every level in organizations, with leadership roles flowing from person to person.

Workforces are becoming more spread out, bringing a need for collaboration and delegation of decision-making authority that traditional leadership models cannot handle. As a result, many of the time-honored leadership concepts have failed as the people holding on to them have been proven wrong in their methods time and again.

Here are some leadership concepts and myths that should be thrown back to where they came from.

Leaders Are Only at the Top

The myth that leadership prowess belonged only to one or two people at the top of a pyramid of power and control is gone.

In reality, leadership is multidimensional. In any given day, each of us moves through a range of different expressions of leadership. We are all leaders in one way or another, and when we hold a wider view of leadership, we can work together in a way that utilizes the unique talents of everyone.

Leaders Are Designated From Birth or by Title

Born leaders do not exist. We all have the potential of becoming capable leaders by taking full responsibility for our actions with those we lead. We might contribute to any endeavor, whether our contribution comes from the front of the effort or from behind it.

A title does not make someone a leader. There are plenty of examples of people with fancy titles who are not able to connect, inspire, empower or develop others.

A leader works hard for the expertise and abilities they have while cultivating respectful relationships with those around them. As a result, they are able to inspire others and work together to achieve goals.

Great Leaders Work Alone

The “lone wolf” theory of leadership—keeping yourself isolated and separated from “the pack” is ineffective. If it wasn't, you would be able to retain the alpha position and hide your weaknesses and personality from others while clinging to your pompous authority and mystique of fake knowledge.

Everyone has weaknesses. Good leaders know this, and surround themselves with people that make up for those weaknesses.

Lone wolf leadership might have been a useful notion when the strongest did survive while hunting for food or running from predators but humans have far outgrown this basic biological functioning.

Effective leaders of today are skillful at evoking leadership in others. In today’s inclusive work environments, coaching is considered a core competency of great leadership.

Leaders Have All of the Answers

In the past, we tended to characterize leaders as heroic, bright problem solvers who provide solutions to difficult problems in an instant. It is the antithesis of collaboration and inclusion, producing solutions that are often shallow or one-dimensional.

The solutions are ineffective because they have not undergone rigorous, committed examination and debate. Curiosity, critical thinking, and inclusion are a part of effective leadership.

Leadership Is About Results, Not People

As the pace of life continues to quicken, businesses and employees have become increasingly action-oriented and results-driven. It seems more expedient to dispense with all the “soft” stuff and drive hard for outcomes.

Unfortunately, when we are disconnected from ourselves and others, this incessant doing leads to actions that are not grounded and leaves people feeling disconnected from the work and results they are achieving.

Leadership that is nourishing and balances "being and doing" is called Co-Active Leadership—co = being, active = doing—working together harmoniously.

Everything in our natural world teaches us that these two energies of co and active weave together in every moment. Like the yin and the yang of ancient Chinese Taoist philosophy, co and active work together to generate connection, balance, and wholeness.

Leading is about people and helping them achieve results. The more that people are focused on, trusted and empowered by their leaders, the more they will accomplish.

Leadership Is Static

We tend to believe that once leadership has been assigned by role or title, things stay that way until the designated leader resigns, is fired, or dies. In reality, leadership is more effective, dynamic and alive when it changes rapidly throughout a system.

In this way, everyone is a leader—sometimes leading in front and pointing the way or leading from behind and supporting the initiative. Sometimes leaders can lead through a partnership, or by using instinct and intuition to sense what is not being spoken.

Failure Is Not an Option

This line of thought is not conducive to growth and change. Failure is an essential part of exploration, new discovery, and encouraging innovation. If we cannot afford to fail, then we must stay with proven approaches from the past. Our actions lack curiosity and exploration because we are so afraid of failure that we aren’t willing to try something new.

It is only through failure that we can learn, evolve and grow. It is important for leaders to embrace and celebrate failure as an important aspect of development and discovery.

Final Thoughts On Leadership

Consider this simple definition of leadership: Leaders are those who are responsible for their world. When we have the capacity to respond creatively rather than in a patterned and reactive way, we understand that we are the authors of our own lives.

This definition of leadership allows contribution from individual strengths and generates leadership that is dynamic and inclusive. We are all valuable, and we each hold pieces of the solutions to challenges that face us. It is only when we release these outdated myths about the meaning of leadership and seek new definitions that we will be able to work and live together in a world that encourages all of us to be our best.