Leadership is about the ability to influence others – nothing more and nothing less. It has less to do with position and is more about credibility, trust, and bringing out the best in yourself and others.
There are many myths about what makes a great leader. Here are ten that I see today. They are in no particular order and the list is by no means complete.
Myth #1: Great leaders are born. They have something in their genes that makes them a great leader. Great leaders develop over time through education, feedback, and most important, experience. You don’t become a great leader without learning from others and your own mistakes.
Myth #2: Great leaders are outgoing “people people.” Great leaders must be comfortable or at least competent in being around and in front of people, but you don’t have to be naturally extroverted. Warren Buffet is a great example of an individual who isn’t known for being an extrovert but is extremely effective as a leader.
Myth #3: Great leaders give people what they want. Great leaders give their people what they need to be successful both in the present and the future. Hitler rose to power because he gave the German people what they wanted. He lost everything because he could not give his people what they needed to truly restore their sense of pride and sustain the long-term greatness they desired.
Myth #4: Great leaders are measured by their level of popularity. Great leaders are measured by their results. In public life, popularity and results often go hand in hand. In the day-to-day world of leadership, there are many people who are viewed as nice people but ineffective leaders.
Myth #5: Great leaders exert power through fear and intimidation. Great leaders earn power through respect and trust. There is a reason that Phil Jackson has won all of those rings as a coach.
Myth #6: Great leadership is about getting others to succumb to your will, ideas, and goals. Great leadership is about empowering others to become and perform their best to achieve a common goal.
Myth #7: Great leaders are the smartest people in the room. Great leaders know their strengths, and most important, they know how to engage and empower people who are smarter than them to achieve success.
Myth #8: Great leaders are great speakers. Great leaders are effective communicators and excellent listeners. We would all love to be great speakers like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. But remember, King George VI inspired a country during WWII.
Myth #9: Great leaders impose their own vision for the future. Great leaders inspire a collective vision for the future. They invest the time to understand what their followers truly need and then articulate a vision that inspires them to achieve it.
Myth #10: Great leaders only exist in the private sector. Great leaders exist in every segment of the economy. Some of the best leaders work in the not-for-profit and government sectors where they deliver amazing results with meager resources.