Everyone has their own idea as to what makes an inspirational business leader. This is natural, as leaders come in all shapes and sizes. There is no universal quality uniting them all and they don’t produce results using identical methods.
Leaders are not isolated to C-Suite management level; they can be found throughout your company. They provide incredible value to an organisation, motivating performance and engagement while getting those around them to work towards a shared vision. Every forward-thinking organisation should be looking to hire and promote such people, but this is impossible when so many leadership misconceptions permeate our culture.
In order to have realistic expectations of what a leader can deliver — and in order to provide hiring managers with the knowledge to pinpoint individuals with leadership potential — it is time to highlight and dismiss these pervasive leadership myths.
You can recognise a true leader instantly
Some people think enigmatic leaders can be spotted the instant they step foot in a room. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If it were, succession planning would be infinitely easier.
Not every leader exudes charisma and demands attention. In fact, there are a great many leadership styles; this is necessary to manage and lead diverse businesses and their people. Some are introverted, while others possess an almost contagious, enigmatic energy. No one style is more effective and the presence of vibrant confidence is not an indication of great leadership. Take Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama as examples. These noted introverts were able to successfully lead and excel in their fields.
This is something that should be kept in mind when promoting, or during the recruitment and selection process. Don’t work on the assumption that the best of the best will instantly make themselves known. Leadership is a nuanced area. In order to determine whether individuals have certain leadership characteristics, strengths, skills or potential, these traits need to be tested and nurtured. This can be done through the use of objective psychometric testing and leadership development programmes.
Leaders are born, not made
Whether great leadership is a result of nature or nurture is a debate that rages on to this day. While it is true that some might be born with inherent characteristics that make them effective leaders, these skills can also be taught. As an example, we can look to successful organisations and their use of executive coaching or leadership development programmes. The incorporation of tools such as these have seen organisations boost efficiency, while improving their ability to respond to rapidly changing market conditions.
Keep an eye out for promising leadership potential. If an individual lacks a few essential leadership skills, rather than overlooking them, consider offering them the ability to learn and grow. This will benefit not only them, but your whole company in the long run.
They’re dynamic and confident 100% of the time
Most perceive leaders to be confident in their abilities and decisions at all times. This is a troubling myth that we should debunk now. Those who are in leadership positions are human beings and, as such, they deal with an element of insecurity and uncertainty. They just don’t let these emotions get in the way of success. They weigh up the options and, based on their knowledge and experience, they take risks.
As a business psychologist, I can testify to the fact that not all successful leaders are entirely sure of what they are doing at all times, but the worst decision they can make is to not take action at all. Even if the leader fails, they will use that experience to learn and grow.
Leaders are primarily concerned with their own interests
If you thought leaders were egotistical and Machiavellian, you should think again. The best leaders listen, compromise and unite teams, with the understanding that no one person can be responsible for the success of a given project. They drive their team to do well and measure success by company results — not their own personal achievements.
As stated in his book Good to Great, Jim Collins explains that the best leaders set their own ego aside: “It’s not that (they) have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves… they are a study in duality: modest and wilful, humble and fearless.”
About the Author: Nick Davis, Director at Davis Associates, is a business psychology guru with a keen interest in organisational change and culture. Nick has helped clients across the globe achieve greater individual, team and organisational performance.