7 Popular Myths About Leadership

One thing I learned in obtaining a master’s in leadership is that defining leadership is difficult.

John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.”

I love a simple definition. Simple works. It’s effective and communicates.

Still, I have observed leadership is often not easy to define as a few simple words. In fact, there are many myths when it comes to even what leadership means—certainly how it’s practiced. I encounter people who don’t have a clue what real leadership is and what it isn’t.
7 Popular Myths About Leadership
Let me share a few myths I’ve observed.
Here are seven of my favorite myths about leadership:

A position makes one a leader.
Really? I don’t think so. Some believe simply having a big or fancy title makes them a leader. Not true. I’ve known many people with huge positions whom no one was truly following. They may give out orders and command a certain obedience, but no one is willingly following their lead. They may be a boss, but I wouldn’t call them a leader.

If I’m not hearing anyone complain, everyone must be happy.
Yea, right! Have you ever heard of passive aggression? The fact is sometimes the leader is the last to know about a problem. Some people are intimidated by leadership. Other times, they don’t know how to approach the leader, so they complain to others, but not the leader. And sometimes, the way I’m leading dictates who tells me what I really need to know.

I can lead everyone the same way.
I have learned this one is so not true. It simply doesn’t work. Actually, people are different and require different leadership styles. I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you want to be effective you will learn your people and alter your style to fit their personalities.

Leadership and management are the same thing.

Great organizations need both, but they are not equal and they require different skills. Simply put: Leadership is more about empowerment and guiding people to a common vision—often into the unknown. Management is more about maintaining efficiency within a predetermined destination.

Being the leader makes you popular.

Well, if only this myth were true—my file of criticism would be so much smaller—when in reality, in some seasons, it’s larger than my encouragement file. The truth is, leaders can be very lonely people. (It’s why leaders must surround themselves with encouragers and continually seek renewal.) The only way to avoid criticism and be “liked” as a leader is to make no decisions, do nothing different, never challenge status quo—in other words—don’t lead.

Leaders must be extroverted charismatics.
So not true. Thankfully. Some of the best leaders I know are very introverted and subdued. And, honestly, they are leading some of the biggest churches and organizations. Leadership IS about influence. If someone is trustworthy, dependable, has integrity and is going somewhere of value—others will follow.

Leaders accomplish by controlling others.
Absolutely not. This is not leadership. It is dictatorship. Effective leaders encourage others to lead. They challenge people to be creative and take ownership and responsibility for accomplishing the vision. They learn to delegate through empowerment. What other myths about leadership have you observed?

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years. 
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