5 Myths and Misconceptions about Leadership
Dwayne, a software developer, aspired to be a manager, but he questioned whether he could succeed as a manager, given his introverted personality. Nevertheless, everyone from whom he sought advice believed he’d be a great manager. And everyone was right. He’s now a well-respected, competent, and thoughtful manager who is destined to move into successively higher leadership positions.
Dwayne’s idea that only people with certain personalities—outgoing, in particular—are qualified to be leaders is one of many misconceptions about leadership. It’s the myth that leaders are born, not made. Even so-called natural leaders have plenty to learn about handling the kinds of challenges and problems they’ll have to face. Many others grow into the role, just as Dwayne did.
A related misconception is that to succeed as a leader, you have to assume a certain lofty persona, even if that persona differs from who you really are. False! When you take on a leadership role, you may have to adjust your behavior in order to earn the respect of your new peers and superiors and to manage former peers and friends. But ultimately, you have to be yourself. It’s tough to succeed while trying to be someone you’re not.
Another common myth is that leaders must have all the answers. It’s especially easy to succumb to this myth and, as a result, to fear saying, “I don’t know.” But wise leaders surround themselves with talented people, and they draw on the expertise of these people to know what they don’t and to help them solve problems and make decisions.
It’s also not the case that leaders must be likable. Leaders have to make tough decisions, and making those decisions may be incompatible with being likable. It’s not the leader’s job to be anyone’s pal. Much more important than being liked is being trusted and respected.
Finally, leaders should be leaders, not doers. I recall Jake, a fellow who was promoted into a leadership position yet continued to jump in to help debug software problems. Some leaders like to “get their hands dirty” to show they’re still one of the gang. That wasn’t Jake’s situation. He simply had a hard time making a break from the technical work he loved. But in so doing, he diminished his reputation as a leader—and prevented the technical staff from solving their own problems.
These are just a few of the many misconceptions about leadership. If you move into a new leadership position, it’s worth checking them out as you adjust to your new role.