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5 Leadership Myths That Hold Leaders Back

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Are These Old Ideas About Leadership Getting In Your Way?

With so much rapid change in the workplace, especially in 2020, many leaders and managers had to become overnight experts on leading virtually and managing remote teams. As organizations scrambled to regroup, it is no wonder that leadership development may have fallen by the wayside.

It can be difficult for individual leaders to develop their leadership skills without organizational support. Today, we all need to actively encourage each other to cultivate a leadership mindset and act as leaders. The Leadership Challenge authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner show that one key to developing a leadership mindset is to ensure that we are not being held back by any unconscious biases or "myths" about leadership.

Debunking 5 Leadership Myths

Whether you are kickstarting developing leaders in your organization or are an emerging leader, make sure these roadblocks are not getting in the way:

  • The Talent Myth: "You either have it or you don't."
    Kouzes and Posner's research confirms that leadership is not actually a talent, but a learned set of skills and abilities. If you assume the best leaders have innate abilities, then you may overlook important potential leadership growth opportunities. The simple antidote to the talent myth is to cultivate the belief that you can develop as a leader, then act upon it.

  • The Position Myth: "Leaders are only found at the top."
    This myth confuses the position of a leader with a position of authority. Just because someone has a higher position in the organizational hierarchy doesn't make them an effective leader. In fact, today, with many organizations becoming more decentralized and "flat", you are more likely to be leading alongside one another, rather than from above. We believe that you can lead from any position with influence and it’s becoming more important for leaders of all types to step up due to the increased importance of teams in our decentralized workplaces. The simple truth is that leadership is about the actions you take, not the position you hold. To combat this myth, aspire to excel as a leader and do not be content with the status quo.

  • The Strengths Myth: "Only focus on what you are good at."
    Kouzes and Posner's research has found that overwhelmingly, the circumstances that enable exemplary leaders to flourish are not circumstances leaders expect or find themselves prepared for. Most often these situations are characterized by challenge, change, and adversity. Focusing only on what you are good at won't spark innovation (and could foster a sense of complacency). To overcome this myth, seek out challenges regularly and cultivate a culture of embracing challenge, curiosity, and learning.

  • The Self-Reliance Myth: "If you can't do it yourself it isn't worth doing."
    Leadership doesn't happen in a vacuum. Even the most visionary leaders need teamwork and engagement. If leaders can't enlist others, they will likely fail. Think of yourself and your leaders like star athletes seek and provide resources for coaching, mentoring, and leadership training, and bring them along with you as you and your leaders develop.

  • The It-Comes-Naturally Myth: "You don't need to practice."
    Great leaders might make it look easy, but the truth is, leadership is all about practice. Research shows that practicing deliberately every day is the key to success not raw talent. Find ways to improve as a leader every single day by seeking out a challenge, saying thank you, taking a risk, and by asking for feedback or the opinions of a coworker. Find one way every single day to see yourself as a leader and act upon it.

This blog article was inspired by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner's work on The Leadership Challenge.  In addition to our customized leadership programs, FlashPoint offers virtual leadership training in an open-enrollment format, suitable for leaders of all levels and organizational sizes. Learn more about our upcoming programs that increase leadership effectiveness.


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Lauren Parkhill

Lauren Parkhill leads the marketing team in creating creative content that helps organizations develop their leaders and teams.

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