There are many misconceptions on what constitutes a good leader: we picture someone who is outgoing, decisive, type A, maybe slightly intimidating. While these are great qualities for a leader to have, they could be the primary reasons why some people don’t seek leadership roles.
For those individuals whose personalities don’t quite fit the mold of a leader, they may miss out on some great opportunities for rewarding projects, promotions, higher salaries and a greater sense of accomplishment.
By identifying some common leadership myths and understanding what actually defines a good leader, it’s possible to change one’s perspective on how to obtain a leadership role and advance their career.
Myth No. 1: Position determines leadership
Leadership is not associated with a job description. Just because someone holds the title of CEO or Business Owner does not make them a true example of leadership. Did they have the wherewithal to make it to the top and become successful? Of course, but that doesn’t mean they’re approachable or even a good manager. They’re still capable of making a series of poor decisions that affect a company’s bottom line. True leadership stems from influence; a true leader is in the trenches with the rest of the company, not only imparting guidance, but doing their part to move the organization forward just as much as everyone else on the team. A leader isn’t watching their team from 50 feet up and monitoring from afar, they’re working beside everyone else and observing to see where they can be the most useful within their department. They’re filling the gaps and completing tasks in people’s absence to ensure the momentum of the company doesn’t stop.
Myth No. 2: Leadership is synonymous with management
Many managers are leaders, but sometimes, management does not good leadership make. A manager’s role is to maintain the processes and systems that ensure workflow is moving as it should. They’re checking boxes, making sure certain deadlines are met, managing hiring and firing–their primary job is to foresee that work gets done. Management is task-based, while leadership is more based on inspiration. A leader is more of a visionary, focused on the bigger picture. While many leaders do have certain management tasks in their job description, a successful leader whose role also happens to be a manager helps the people who work for them feel valued and supported. Their team members don’t just feel like cogs in a machine, the manager in this case helps them feel as if they’re all working toward a common goal. The infographic below is an accurate depiction of a manager, well, a boss in this case, versus a leader.
Image Source: Modern Servant Leader
Myth No. 3: Leadership cannot be taught
“Leaders are born, not made.” That expression could not be further from the truth. While it’s true that some people are just natural born leaders, most people develop their leadership skills by learning, observing and growing. They seek guidance and look to their mentors in certain situations. Someone who desires to be a leader has to pursue the role with patience, focus and insights from leadership experts. Many people who are already in leadership roles seek to improve by attending seminars, reading books on leadership training and going back to school to gain advanced degrees to further develop their skills and progress with the times. Successful companies constantly evolve and it’s up to the leaders to avoid stagnation and assume different roles that can help their teams and their strategies keep up with the industry changes and stay ahead of the competition by always seeking improvement.
Myth No. 4: Leaders must always be leading
Quite the contrary; leadership doesn’t mean becoming a workaholic. Leaders know how to balance their work and their personal lives. Many people actually avoid leadership roles because they’re often intimidated by the misconception that leaders need to be working around the clock: constantly focused, strategizing and refining their vision. Efficient leaders know their limits and know what they can demand from themselves without experiencing burnout. They make time to refuel and step back to relax and reflect. They also impart this wisdom onto their teams. Working yourself to the bone is counterproductive. Leaders understand that it’s important to let your mind clear and step away from something that could be causing a mental roadblock. Sometimes the best ideas happen when you’re not even thinking about work responsibilities.
Myth No. 5: Leaders must be extroverted
While it’s often the case that leaders tend to be more outgoing, it’s not always true. When comparing introverted versus extroverted, these terms are often used to describe how outgoing someone is or isn’t; extroversion being associated with gregarious, talkative and confident, while introversion being synonymous with shy or withdrawn.
These characteristics actually have more to do with how information is processed and less to do with behavior in social situations. Extroverts tend to talk things through and aren’t afraid to seek others’ guidance and input to reach conclusions in a more outwardly manner. Introverts, however, tend to process ideas and conflict inwardly, carefully considering their position more independently from others.
When it comes to leadership roles, extroverts tend to be more attracted to those responsibilities due to their eagerness to engage with their team and other colleagues to plan, strategize and solve problems. Whereas, many successful leaders are also introverts, as they tend to lead on instinct and have a good sense of what is best for the team and the company in different situations. If something is amiss, they have a calming way of informing their team while still formulating a reasonable solution that will help move the company forward.
No one should feel they’re not cut out to be a leader. Pragmatically speaking, it would be ideal to know what would be best for the company depending on which industry you’re working in, but it’s also important to know what it takes to inspire a team, have trust in them, have the ability to generate enthusiasm and excitement for how the team is performing and always inform them on where the company is headed. Leaders should never rest on their laurels, they must always be seeking improvement and a willingness to grow in their environment in an effort to stay relevant and respected.