How to Be a Leader: Dispelling the Myths

By Alan Olsen
How to Be a Leader: Dispelling the Myths

No matter what position you hold in your company, your ability to lead will greatly determine the extent of your success. Leadership skills enable you to guide customers effectively, get team members and company leadership to buy in to your ideas, and develop the respect and reputation you need to get ahead.

Leadership is written about extensively, yet the concept is widely misunderstood. Recognizing the following myths and misconceptions can help you become the kind of leader that others genuinely want to follow.

Leadership is about power.

This may be the most dangerous misconception because attempting to lead based on power and control actually undermine someone’s ability to lead. A great definition of leadership is the one developed by the GLOBE (for Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness) project. Led by Professor Robert J. House of the Wharton School, the project defined leadership as “the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members.”

The key terms are “influence,” “motivate,” and “enable.” Leaders don’t control or direct others; rather, they use their influence and passion to create a direction and vision for the organization and provide people with the inspiration and resources they need to achieve it.

Leadership is about title or position.

Many people mistakenly believe that leadership is reserved for an organization’s top executives. But you don’t need a particular title or position to be a leader. It’s important to understand the difference between leadership and management. Management guru Peter Drucker famously said that “Leadership is doing the right things; management is doing things right.”Managers control or direct those who report to them to ensure that they do things right. Leaders inspire others by doing the right things and encouraging others to “follow their lead.” Understood in this way, anyone can be a leader, regardless of their role in the organization.

Leaders are extroverted and charismatic.

There are countless lists of important leadership qualities, but few, if any, mention extroversion or charisma. Leadership is less about personal characteristics and more about things like honesty, integrity, accountability, empathy, passion, listening, and the ability to delegate. Displaying these attributes and behaviors doesn’t require a particular personality type.

To Be a Leader, Act Like One

The best way to become a leader in your organization is to behave like one. In “Act Like a Leader Before You Are One” (Harvard Business Review 2013), author Amy Gallo offers several strategies forgetting recognized as a leader. They include:

• Do a great job. Regardless of your future ambitions, you still have to deliver results in your current job.
• Help your boss succeed. Gallosays, “Find out what keeps your manager up at night and propose solutions to those problems.”
• Seize leadership opportunities, no matter how small. “Raise your hand for new initiatives,” Gallo recommends, “especially ones that might be visible to those outside your unit.”
• Be a leader in the community. Opportunities to demonstrate leadership aren’t limited to the workplace. Consider sitting on the board of a local nonprofit or getting involved in community organizing.
• Make yourself stand out by taking on problems that others aren’t aware of or are unwilling to tackle.

These are just a few strategies for becoming a leader in your organization. For additional guidance, please contact us.