Leadership Myths

I am currently reading John C Maxwell’s 360 Degree Leadership and in the first chapter he discusses is the Myths of leading from the middle of an organization.


I thought of adding some notes from the book for future reference


  • Leadership:  The true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less

  • Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit.

What is a Myth? A myth is something that is false, but believed to be true. As in many things in life, there are several myths surrounding the concept and practice of leadership.


7 Myths

1.       The Position Myth: I cannot lead if I am not at the Top

2.       The Destination Myth: When I get to the top, then I will learn to lead

3.       The Influence Myth: If I were on Top, then people would follow

4.       The Inexperience Myth: When I get to the Top, I will be in control

5.       The Freedom Myth: When I get to the top, I will no longer be limited

6.       The Potential Myth: I cannot reach my potential if I’m not the top leader

7.       The All-Or-Nothing Myth: If I cannot get to the top, then I wont try to lead


Becoming a good leader is a lifelong learning process.


How do you become the person you desire to be?

Author talks about practicing/trying out the leadership skills and decision-making process when the stakes are small. Mistakes made on the small scale can be easily overcome. When you are at the top, mistakes might cost the organization greatly and damage the leaders reputation.

He suggests adopting the thinking, learning the skills and developing the habits of the person you wish to be. He quotes the basketball coach John wooden’s quote “When opportunity comes, its too late to prepare”. To become a successful leader, learn to lead before you have a leadership position


I searched the web to find out more information on the topic and found some good links…


Leadership Mythology by Gregory P. Smith

Myth 1 – Leadership is a rare ability only given to a few. Many people still think leaders are born not made. This can’t be further from the truth. Most people have the potential to become good leaders. Leadership is not like a diet pill. Like most learned skills, it takes time, training, and lots of trial by error. The key ingredient making people good leaders is the ability to care about others. The second ingredient is a sense of purpose, vision or mission. A good leader charts a course and provides direction to those they lead.

Myth 2 – Leaders are charismatic. Many leaders are charismatic, but closer scrutiny shows that most leaders are not. Some of the world’s most famous leaders had warts–some sort of shortcoming or personality issue. In a leadership role, people skills are very important–more important than technical skills. However, the best leaders are those who work toward a goal. Your cause, your purpose and your mission in life will make you charismatic, not the other way around.

Myth 3 – The person with the title, most rank or the highest position is the leader. True leadership is not based on position or rank. It is based on action, performance, ability, and effectiveness. We all relate to working for those people who were placed in leadership roles who did more to demoralize and destroy the business than anything else.

The best companies strive to develop and create as many leaders as possible. W.L. Gore & Associates, makers of Gore Tex and other products, have a unique approach to leadership. The practice of natural leadership "leadership by fellowship." They dont appoint people as leaders . . .they let the true leaders surface to the top. People naturally gravitate to those they want to follow, respect, and work with. There are no limiting job descriptions, job titles, and few rules and regulations. If a person comes up with a new idea, he or she puts a team together of people who have the desire and knowledge to make it work.

Myth 4 – Effective leadership is based on control, coercion, and manipulation. Leadership is about the future, not the past. Joel Barker’s has the best quote about leadership, "A leader is someone you would follow to a place you would not go to by yourself." Good leaders gain followers out of respect and their ability to cause people to work toward a particular goal or achieve a destination. People follow because they can relate to the vision or goal personalized by the leader. A good leader helps people become better than they are. A good leader creates a work environment that attracts, keeps and motivates its workforce

Myth 5 – Good leaders have more education than other people. Educational degrees may mean you have a good education, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a good leader. When it comes to leadership, experience is the best teacher. The U.S. military has the best leadership development program in the world. In the military, you start out at the bottom. You are placed in leadership positions and closely evaluated. As your experience broadens, so does your responsibility. This practical experience is reinforced with weeks and months of formal training throughout the individual’s career.


Five Myths of Leadership

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Myth 1: Great Man Syndrome – Leaders must have some elusive, larger-than-life, “rock-star” personality to be effective, otherwise people will not follow them.
Slain: While some leaders do have charismatic personalities it is not a prerequisite to being an effective leader
Myth 2: Leadership is only for CEO’s and other senior roles – Leadership techniques are not intended or applicable for “ordinary” workers.
Slain: While the term “leader” is most often associated with senior executives the goals and roles of leadership which include: “Model the way”, “Inspire a shared vision”, “Challenge the process”, “Enable others to act”, “Encourage people”, etc apply equally well in a project setting, problem solving group, or voluntary groups. The truth is that Leadership is everyone’s business.
Myth 3: Leaders are born not made – you either have the leadership traits and skills or you don’t, they cannot be learned.
Slain: This is simply not true. Leadership skills are learnable traits that with study and practice can be improved.
Myth 4: On projects, Leadership is the responsibility of only the project manager – Project Managers on projects undertake all the leadership duties.
Slain: Leadership is often linked to strategy and plans, the domain of the project manager, but anyone on a project can step-up and takes a leadership role. This does not need to threaten or undermine the role of the Project Manager; instead it can be taking responsibility for a problem or issue.
Myth 5: Leadership is about control and telling people what to do – leaders direct the work to be undertaken and define the steps towards the end goal.
Slain: Leadership is not about command and control; instead it is about getting people excited about a common goal and enabling them to achieve it. Leaders do not specify exactly how things must be performed, instead they gain buy-in for a solution, try to align project goals with personal goals, then leverage people’s ingenuity to achieve a result.
Leadership is not only for CEO’s. Leaders are not born. They are made and Leadership skills are learnable traits that with study and practice can be improved.


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