Over the course of my years I’ve read, heard and seen in practice, good and bad leaders leading and managing their tribe. Needless to say there are a few myths out there about what makes a good leader; their behaviour; their character; what they should and shouldn’t do. It’s a personal bugbear of mine, so here are just a few myths busted!
Myth #1 – Great leaders are born leaders
This debate has been going on for some time, but I think as a society we’ve finally agreed that great leaders can be made. It’s only taken us 20 centuries to agree on this. And yet I still find people who believe they don’t have it in them to be ‘natural leaders’.
Before I dissect that argument, let me first reassure you. If you have any doubt in your capabilities to be a fantastic leader now or in the future, then you are not alone. You may think there are others out there better suited to the role and would therefore shy away from the opportunity.
Have you ever heard of the impostor syndrome?
Take a moment to think of the most inspirational leader you know. Go on, do it!
Now, check out their history and I promise you’ll find a ‘wobble’ here and there when they didn’t quite hit the mark, when they weren’t as strong as they could have been, when they made a bad decision that cost them time, money and people. Richard Branson is very honest about his ‘wobbles’ throughout his life; like the time he decided to drive a tank through Times Square announcing the launch of Virgin Cola, which later fizzed.
Don’t worry, you are not alone. It’s perfectly fine and natural to doubt yourself. But believe me. You have it in you to be one of the best leaders around. I know that’s easier said than done, so let’s dissect the meaning of leadership to understand why leaders can be made.
Being a leader is like being a conductor of an Orchestra (you may have heard this a zillion times because it’s true). It involves leading your tribe on a journey from A to Z; creating a tangible vision of how to get there; offering people clear direction when they need it; understanding your people and how to get the best out of them; allowing space for social connectedness and creativity to flourish; empowering your people to use their own initiative and creativity to help you reach your destination.
No one is born knowing how to lead like that. Like everything else in life, leadership is a journey of discovery. Discovering your own strengths, your own weaknesses, and your own ways to influence people around you is part of this journey.
Myth #2 – Being a Leader means being in charge
An interesting perception some leaders have, and indeed some team mates, is that the leader should be the only one in charge. They have the right to stamp their authority all over the place like an overflowing cup of black coffee placed on a crisp white table cloth.
But while this might have been the approach taken in the 50s, it’s a wildly outdated approach today. Not to say it wasn’t outdated then!
Breathing fire like a dragon and even going so far as to threaten or reprimand people using a carrot and stick approach simply does not work. It didn’t work very well in the 50’s and it certainly isn’t working now. Not only does it make these “leaders” appear emotional and out of control, but also implies that they can control not only the tasks but also their subordinates – a far cry from the calm, collected leader who helps create an engaged tribe in a safe environment.
No man is an island, and you’ll find you get a lot more out of people if you serve them and empower them to HELP YOU. After all, what’s between you is a work contract, and if they chose to terminate that contract you’re snookered.
Remember, all leaders are human which means they have weaknesses, character flaws and self-doubt just like everyone else.
Being a leader is not about who you are but is about what you do!