Bust These Change Leadership Myths!

Recent experience facilitating a leadership programme for frontline and middle managers in a local authority in Southwest England raised again for me the spectre of leadership myths.

Encountering those leaders brought home just how many myths exist, particularly among those who have no previous experience of leadership development.

So I thought, in this month’s post, I would highlight my top ten myths that need busting wide open!

1. There is a recognisable pattern to leaders and leadership.

So many ‘gurus’ and academic institutes advocate their theory and their model. The simple truth is this – as people, we are all different. Moreover, different folks take different strokes!

2. You can be a good leader without getting good results.

The whole point of great leadership is that it leads to great outputs, outcomes, or impact for the customer/client/citizen. If this is not happening, how good is your leadership?

3. Good leaders don’t cause stress!

Good leaders have a compelling vision, lead with love and care, and drive with purpose! For some, this will be stressful, however beautifully the target is positioned!

4. You can teach leadership – it’s easy!

Yes, you can teach leadership skills and knowledge. How they are applied, however, is another matter altogether! Leading is not easy. What you cannot explain is how it feels to make decisions! Making decisions as a leader is often about a choice of the lesser of two evils, and that is when your values are so important. However, values are things we rarely speak about in our workplace.

5. Leadership relies on position and resides at the top of an organisation.

Too many people believe this. Every organisation requires leaders at all levels, and a vital function of all leaders is to grow more leaders – regularly and consistently.

6. Great leaders are charismatic and visionary.

Some great leaders have been just that. For the most part, however, great leaders are those who are consistently effective! They are those leaders who best connect, engage, serve, lead, and learn with their teams and collaborate widely with their wider stakeholders.

7. Great organisations bring in new leaders from outside.

A central focus of great leadership is that it helps to grow new leaders – within the organisation, in the ‘here and now’ and for the future.

8. Leaders must have expert knowledge.

Leaders need to be able to do just that – lead – often across multi-faceted environments! That is why leaders must continuously learn. However, I know they do not need to be experts in the various fields of experience they lead – they primarily need to understand how best to utilise the talents of those who are the experts.

9. Leaders must be in control.

Of all the myths, for me this is the one that needs busting open the most! Command and control cultures, with attendant micro-management, still abound.

10. Leaders are rare.

That is one of the most perpetuated myths of all. Rather than being scarce, leaders are everywhere! Often, though, they are not leading as effectively as they might. Skills and knowledge development, good coaching and mentoring, and an internal policy on growing leaders will soon begin to put that right!

While I personally dislike them, command-and-control styles of leadership have a purpose on occasion. They might even deliver short-term gain, though often, in my direct experience, at a cost to employees’ mental and physical health.

However, they rarely lead to practical, embedded change. For that, we need a shared purpose, aligned values, and depth of leadership across the organisation that is often not acknowledged or identified.

So, to deliver on effective change, we need to build much more effective leadership throughout our organisations; but first, we need to bust these myths and open up the leader within to all staff at every level.

What steps will you take to bust them?