The Five Leadership Myths

Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, in their book Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge, presented the results from their study of 90 modern-day leaders.  From their interviews with these leaders, they concluded that there are five leadership myths:

Myth Number 1.
Leadership is a rare skill.

We, too, often associate leadership with highly visible and acclaimed figures, such as Lincoln, Churchill, and Gandhi. In truth, there are numerous examples of leadership in our everyday lives, whether it is in coaching little league, running a volunteer organization, or playing in an orchestra.  They may not be in a supervisory position – Myth Number 4.

Myth Number 2
Leaders are born, not made.

For years, a debate has raged about whether leadership is innate or learned.  The most accepted view today is that it is both. Most people possess at least some qualities of leadership and can develop leadership skills if they consciously seek to do so.

Myth Number 3
Effective leaders are charismatic.

 Some leaders are charismatic, and others are not.  There are many personality types from extroverts to introverts who make good leaders.  Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower were reported to have the personalities of a “dead Mackerel,” nevertheless, they were effective leaders.

Myth Number 4
Leadership exists only at the top.

 Leaders exist at every level of the organization from the executive suite to the shop floor. Leadership is not defined so much in terms of formal position but rather as a person’s ability to act from a clear vision and influence others to the realization of that vision.

 Myth Number 5
Leaders control, direct, and prod.

Some leaders are controlling and directive in their approach. However, the most effective leaders and those who create enduring change are those who elicit commitment from within, rather than imposing control from without.

      *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

I have great news for you.  If you are reading this article, you (yes you!) have leadership abilities. Some of you might be hesitant to see yourselves as a leader due to a set of events that may have occurred in your life, or you are comparing your leadership style to one or more of the more known leaders in our society.

I have even better news for you. If you are committed to learning and growing your leadership skills, you can, and you should start today!  Engage a leadership coach, read books, and attend seminars and workshops.  However, you choose to develop your leadership skills, start right now.  Be a leader in your own life!