3 Common Misconceptions About Leadership (and Why They Can Keep You from Your Leadership Potential)
There’s a lot about leadership that is often misunderstood. Until you’re a leader, you don’t quite get that.
But if you ever hope to be, there are some things you need to know – things that would be particularly helpful to know before you’re placed into a leadership position (so they don’t bite you in the ass).
So, let’s clear the air and talk about a few of those misconceptions. Particularly, the three I’ve found which can keep you from reaching your leadership potential (because we all have the potential to become leaders).
The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.
– Ken Blanchard
I’ve found there to be primarily three major misconceptions, or myths, about leadership. Each is harmful in their own way, either giving people the wrong idea about leaders or about leadership in general.
1. Leadership is a title
This is probably the deepest and most damaging misconception. Specifically, it’s the misunderstanding that leadership is a title or position someone is given, like being a manager or boss.
The truth is, even someone without any rank or title can become a leader. That’s because leadership is based on influence, not position. This is why (and how) people often lose their leadership positions, particularly when other more charismatic individuals challenge them – they lose their influence over the people they’ve been leading.
A leader is someone that others look up to. They’re someone who lives the way that others would like to live but often are too afraid or unconfident to do themselves. A leader can then give them the courage to stand up for what they believe in. In many ways, a leader’s most important role is to transmit courage to those who have none (or not enough).
2. Leaders just delegate tasks to others
People like the idea of becoming a leader. Who wouldn’t want to be in a position of power?
However, many people misunderstand what a leader’s true role is and often think of it as simply someone who tells everyone else what they’re supposed to be doing. In this way, they confuse being a leader with being a boss or a manager.
It’s true that a manager or boss is often thrust into a position where they’re expected to be something of a leader, however, these things don’t come hand-in-hand.
A leader is not a manager and a manager is not a leader. A leader deals with the intangibles – they inspire people to move on a cause by touching their hearts. A manager, on the other hand, simply, well… manages. It’s a much more basic, organizational duty that deals very little with emotions or anything intangible.
3. Leaders are born, not made
This is an unfortunate but incredibly common belief that keeps the idea of leadership seemingly separate and unavailable to many. It’s not something often talked about, but I’ve found that most people just believe that some are meant to be leaders and others aren’t.
It is true that some people are born with qualities that make them better leaders than the average person. Qualities such as:
- Strong public speaking, or
- High emotional intelligence
However, the truth is, you become a leader when you care enough about a cause – enough that you’ll do something about it whether others will or won’t. When you have the courage to stand up for what you believe in – whether others are standing with you or not – you automatically become a leader.
You may or may not actually become a leader to more than a handful of people, but what matters is that you’ve lived up to your leadership potential by moving passed fear and having the courage to stand up for what you believe in.
There are several damaging misconceptions about leadership. And it’s unfortunate because we all have such great leadership potential.
The truth is, living up to our leadership potential is closely aligned with living up to our potential as human beings in general. To live up to our potential, in part, means to move passed fear and to do and act on the things that we care about – and that’s also a big part of what makes a great leader.
So, take these misconceptions to heart and see them as a warning. You have great potential – the potential to not only do something great with your life but to become a great leader and inspire others to do something great with their life as well.