by Ken Pasch, author of “On Course: Become a Great Leader & Soar!“
What does it mean to be a leader? Is it a natural ability to rally those around you? A special term reserved for the high ranks of an organization or political office? Or is it simply being successful in what you do?
These are widely held beliefs about leadership, but they are false beliefs and ideas. In other words: they’re myths.
Many myths about leadership cause significant problems and can throw you off course in your leadership journey.
Let’s look at five top leadership myths to see how many you recognize:
Myth #1: “Leaders must be born with the necessary attributes.”
How often have you heard the phrase, “He was born to lead?” or “She’s a natural leader?” Is the secret to leadership locked in our genes?
Sure, some people seem to have natural gifts that help them lead well. But from my 30 years working in leadership development, I can tell you the majority ofleaders are made, not born.
History backs this notion as well. Just take a look at familial monarchies over time. How do they turn out? The same bloodline has produced both good monarchs and lousy ones. You may even see this in your own bloodline: if your favorite uncle or aunt is a great leader, does this mean people view you as a naturally gifted leader, too? Of course not.
Myth #2: “I’m a leader because I’m in a leadership position.”
Though this statement seems technically true – doesn’t your business card prove it? – assuming you’re in your current role as a result of your leadership skills is one of the biggest myths out there.
The people who put you in a position of authority expect you to achieve results. But don’t be fooled into believing they measured your ability to lead and, as a result, placed you in the role. Relative proficiency is a prime reason people are elevated to leadership roles. But proficiency in a technical field does not necessarily qualify you to lead well. Your success as a leader depends on your ability to achieve good results with your crew members, not good results at their expense.
Myth #3: “I can’t be a leader because I’m not in a leadership position.”
I guarantee you are a leader in some, if not several, aspects of your life. You’ll find the best organizations are actually full of leaders, not just people “at the top.” Taking ownership of something within your area of responsibility requires you to lead. Honing your skills at this level provides good experience for leadership positions in the future.
Myth #4: “I’m as successful as I’m going to get. I’m far too busy to find another way.”
We all have the same number of hours in a day. Over time, you can learn to use your hours differently to be more effective, and not just busy.
Don’t believe me? Consider this stunning fact: the average American watches five hours of television each day. That’s more than 20 percent of our waking hours! Imagine what we could accomplish if we used just one or two hours of leisure time every day on productive activities rather than an escape. In fact, why imagine it when you can start today?
Myth #5: “I can be, do, and have everything I want. Leadership will follow my success.”
Perhaps you’ve never said this, but do your actions imply you believe it? Deep down, you know that doing and having everything isn’t realistic, or even possible. Could this be keeping you from becoming the leader you want to be?
Instead, concentrate on priorities you can turn into results. To borrow from my U.S. Air Force days, you want to become an ACE, focusing on abundance (where you’re efforts benefit “we” and not just “me”), concentrating on priorities, and earnestly pursuing your purpose with passion.
Ken Pasch brings over 30 years’ experience in revolutionizing leader development within a broad range of organizations, including the U.S. Military, Johnson & Johnson, the American College of Healthcare Executives, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. He is founder of KiVisions, Inc., which advises good people on how to become great leaders, and serves as faculty in executive education at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University. His new book is “On Course: Become a Great Leader & Soar!“.