Three Leadership Myths Rarely Discussed…If at All

Covey quote: Leadership is the highest of the arts, simply because it enables all the other arts and professions to work.

You’ve seen the articles about leadership myths, but most seem well-known including:

  • Leaders are born, not made
  • Leaders need to be extroverts / charismatic / popular / outgoing
  • You need an authoritative role to lead (such as being a manager or executive)
  • Leaders are always right
  • Reading about leadership is enough to become a leader
  • Men make better leaders than women

The myths below are different: few discuss them or even recognize that they exist.

I derived these myths while researching how leadership is radically changing. Examining myths — especially tacit ones — and demystifying them helps to distinguish leadership from management, to avoid making these mistakes, and to practice authentic and effective leadership.

Myth #1: Leadership is about getting things done through others

Image of an arm pointing at a girl who looks defient

In their books, several authors define leadership in terms of accomplishing visions, goals, or objectives by influencing followers to do the work. Hence, leaders get others to do stuff that they need to get done. They obtain buy-in and influence them to act. While many are attracted to this notion, the myth more accurately describes management rather than leadership. Consider Follet’s definition of management:

The art of getting things done through people

— Mary Parker Follet’s definition of management

If leadership isn’t getting stuff done through others, then what is it? At a Skillsoft Books24x7 event [note: you need a subscription to access the link], David Marquet said this:

Leadership is not about getting people to do stuff.
It’s about getting people to think.

- L. David Marquet