Leadership is arguably the most valuable asset an organization can possess but yet, for some reason, it almost always seems to be in short supply. Countless organizations, both for-profit and non-profit, fall frustratingly short of achieving their full potential due to a lack of leadership. The men and women at the top of the org chart lament how they wish those lower on the org chart would step up and take leadership roles. The men and women lower on the org chart, though, seem to always lament that those on top of the org chart aren’t leading. It’s an interesting organizational dynamic driven by three leadership myths that likely limiting your success.
Myth #1: You must be in a leadership position to lead.
Many people mistakenly believe holding a so-called “leadership position” is a pre-requisite to leading. A so-called “leadership position” means you’re a boss or a manger, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a leader.
Leadership is based on your ability to influence the actions of those around you. The actual position you hold is irrelevant. If you can influence those around you to passionately row in the same direction, you’re a leader. If you can’t, you’re not. Simply having people report to you or execute on your directives doesn’t make you a leader. Inspiring people so that they organically align in the passionate pursuit of something greater than they could accomplish on their own is what makes you a leader.
Myth #2: You must have knowledge and experience to lead.
Many people mistakenly believe that a certain level of knowledge or experience is a pre-requisite to leading. Having knowledge and experience means you have functional expertise, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a leader.
Leadership is based on your ability to facilitate the open and fearless sharing of ideas in order to identify to best possible solutions. Not even the most knowledgeable and experienced person can out-think the collective wisdom of a group that’s aligned in the passionate pursuit of something great. When you serve as the catalyst for idea generation, you’re a leader. When you’re THE idea generator, you’re not. Inspiring groups of people to naturally place more value in finding the best solution than promoting their personal agenda is what makes you a leader.
Myth #3: You must be successful to lead.
Many people mistakenly believe that a track record of success is a pre-requisite to leading. A list of past achievements means you’re effective, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a leader.
Leadership is based on your ability to inspire others to achieve great things without your involvement. There’s simply not enough time in the day for a single person to do everything required to achieve truly significant things. When your team begins to achieve meaningful outcomes that you weren’t even aware they were pursuing, you’re a leader. When your involvement is required to achieve meaningful results, you’re not. Inspiring teams to intrinsically and constantly seek innovative solutions in pursuit of something significant is what makes you a leader.
These three myths speak to every level of an organization. Those at the top of the org chart who desire to see more leadership below need to be sure these myths aren’t driving them to create the leadership vacuum themselves. Those lower on the org chart who believe there’s a lack of leadership above need to be sure these myths aren’t preventing them from simply filling the leadership vacuum themselves. When every level of an organization is properly aligned around leadership, success flourishes.