Don’t Believe These 5 Leadership Misconceptions

Key insights:

  • Misconceptions and myths about leadership are quite prominent and can lead to misunderstandings about what leadership really means
  • Leaders who subscribe to these misconceptions can harm their ability to lead effectively
  • It is important to debunk these misconceptions so that leaders can lead from places of emotional intelligence and authenticity

Although we find ourselves in the midst of the so-called “information age,” I believe we simultaneously exist in the “misinformation age.” Misconceptions, myths, misunderstandings and wrong assumptions are just as prominent today as facts in the general discourse. What is most insidious is that misinformation is often dressed up to seem plausible or factual when it could not be further from reality. And when it comes to leadership, misconceptions and myths can infect the minds of impressionable people, giving them a vision of leadership that is not conducive to engagement, enthusiasm or the continued development of future leaders.

Misinformation and misconceptions about leadership can be harmful for a variety of reasons. When new leaders take on responsibilities without being developed for a new role properly, they fall back on common misconceptions and fallacies about what it means to lead. Their people become disenchanted and disengaged. Team members who have their own designs on becoming leaders learn nasty habits and the cycle just continues to persist, with misconceptions and myths becoming codified into organizational approaches, never to be questioned.

Today I want to tell you about some of the most troubling leadership misconceptions that exist today. These myths are quite commonly believed, and have retained their hold on the minds of many leaders around the world, despite being debunked. If you want to base your leadership on proven concepts and approaches that actually drive engagement upward, you need to avoid subscribing to these leadership misconceptions.

Let’s get started!

#1 – Life Is Easy at the Top/Leadership Is the Hardest Job You’ll Ever Have

Some people get into leadership because they believe being the boss means living on Easy Street. Others avoid leadership because they keep hearing about the incredible difficulties of the job. And then there’s a third group who simply makes the job more difficult than it has to be.

The truth is that no two leadership jobs are the same. And every leader experiences a dynamic range of realities on the job. Yes, leaders get to enjoy certain perks and benefits that come with their prominent positions. But that doesn’t mean the work is easy, or that anyone should enter the leadership track because it promises an easier life.

At the same time, leadership can be incredibly difficult and demanding. Leaders must often work long hours and take on tough decisions. But for those who feel a calling to leadership, this is not as difficult as some would make it out to be. 

In reality, the demands of leadership are significant, but they aren’t impossible for those who take a balanced approach to the work. Some days are difficult; others are relatively easy. It changes all the time. One thing is for certain: Leadership is never boring!

#2 – Leaders Need to Be Outgoing Extroverts

People commonly believe that there is a narrow personality profile that all leaders must fit into: Extroverted, sociable and outgoing. Yes, many leaders happen to fit this profile quite well, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones fit to lead.

Introverts and quieter types can also have the essential qualities of leadership. In fact, for some organizations, a more introverted leadership style could be the key to success. Introverted leaders may have a different style, but they also bring a number of useful qualities to the table. They tend to be exceptional listeners and deep thinkers – these are qualities that can lend themselves to improved engagement and a knack for next-level strategizing.

If you feel called to leadership, but are worried that your introverted nature may hold you back, consider that your qualities are, in fact, special powers that will help you inspire your people and propel your organization forward.

#3 – The Title of Leader Changes Everything

Leaders don’t automatically receive more respect or deference from people. They have to earn it like everyone else.

The title of “leader” doesn’t magically bestow special powers upon anyone. Being made a leader is really just the beginning. It’s what happens next that determines how people will respond to you. People will challenge you and your authority; they will question your wisdom and decision-making abilities. This is the time for you to prove your mettle and show others that you deserve the title you have been given.

#4 – Leaders Exist “Above It All”

Some people believe that leaders should never engage in menial tasks. They believe that certain responsibilities are beneath leaders and ought to be delegated to others.

The reality is that sometimes leaders need to roll up their sleeves and get dirty in the trenches with the rest of their teams. Certainly, delegation is crucial for leaders who want to maximize their effectiveness. But when time is tight and things need to get done, the best leaders do what needs to be done to ensure the best outcomes for their respective organizations.

#5 – Leaders Don’t Experience the Same Feelings as Everyone Else

There is a misconception out there that leaders don’t have the same feelings or experience the same emotions as others. This is absolutely false!

I can tell you from experience that leaders are every bit as emotional as anyone else. Because of their roles, they may feel the need to temper their feelings or mask their emotions. However, leaders who ignore their emotional depths tend to burn out and don’t last very long in their positions.

To me, emotions are essential for effective leadership. Feeling elated when things go well is important! So is feeling disappointed when things don’t go so well. The key is to use those emotions to continue your development and become an even more effective leader for your people.

Emotional Intelligence, or “EQ,” is one of the absolute must-haves of modern leadership. When leaders fail to acknowledge their own emotions, it’s as if they are tying both arms behind their backs. Learn to accept, explore and work with your emotions and you will be much better equipped to handle the emotional realities of your team members.

Are Leadership Misconceptions Hurting Your Cause?

These five leadership misconceptions are quite common these days, in spite of the fact that so many excellent leaders have debunked them.

Did any of these myths resonate particularly closely with you? Did you enter into a leadership role with any of them firmly planted in your mind? Can you see how they might negatively impact your ability to lead your people effectively?

These and other misconceptions about leadership will persist unless leaders like you find ways to show the world that they don’t define what it means to lead in today’s world.

In the coming weeks, I will continue to explore themes of myths, misconceptions and false assumptions, so stay tuned!

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