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4 myths about leadership you should know before developing leadership in others

If you have worked in business any longer than 5 minutes, it's pretty easy to spot good managers or leaders very quickly and equally those who really don't have a clue on how to manage people - they stand out like sore thumbs.

So what's the difference between a really effective leader and a manager? Do they have to be spectacularly amazing, charismatic personalities that melt you every time you see them or hear their voice?

Myth 1 - you don't have to be a 'Jack in the Box' personality type or Super Human
The myth here is that leadership requires almost superhuman capabilities that even Batman or Spiderman would bulk at. That's simply not true. Sure, it's tough at the top of the corporate tower, however leadership is necessary at all levels in an organisation (and the world) so you don't have to be 'Super Human' to be a leader. To be the leader in the SAS you might just well need some of those characteristics...but the rest of the real world isn't just like that.

Myth 2 - you don't have to like everybody or be liked
It simply isn't possible. What is important that you understand different people's perspectives and don't perceive them as 'WRONG' or just plain 'DIFFICULT' and label them that way. Often the seemingly most difficult people can be your allies. The secret here is to be able to adapt your version of how you see things to suit others' communication style and personal interests and also be flexible to appreciate their position. Often leaders are the people who tackle unpopular issues or tackle things no-one else wants to touch..that's the nature of the beast.

Myth 3 - it's complex and all about the long term
Actually the principles of leadership are dead simple. The difficulty comes in having the skills to apply them. Here's our quick version:

  • You create a vision or see something that no-one else sees.
  • You can talk about it with passion in different ways to engage different audiences.
  • You support people to get on and do it themselves.
  • You have a core set of values which you don't waver from and act as a role model.

If it was all about the long term, many leaders wouldn't be in a job, because today's issues have to be dealt with. At different levels, leaders take a longer term perspective, but using this style can work today not just tomorrow.

Myth 4 - you have to be the most creative person in the world (and it has to happen in a flash)
Creativity is useful of course, but you just have to be able to see what others don't. So there are 2 main types of creativity in leadership:

  1. Spotting opportunities
  2. Solving problems

If you study the history of creativity, you will notice something quite startling. Nothing ever happened overnight. Most 'inventions' or great ideas never came from Eureka moments..they were slow hunches that eventually turned into something really good after many modifications.

Summary
Leadership is something for almost everyone. No superhuman characteristics required. If you want to be CEO of apple, well maybe. Everyone can be leader and step in when they see something others' don't with a solution. Match that with great communication skills and an interest in developing people and the deal is almost done. Simple really.

Do have a look at our info-graphic on the leadership toolkit including 4 key ways to develop great leaders at any level in your organisation.
 

JOHN F. | THINKING HR