Leadership refers to a person’s ability to motivate, guide and direct individuals or groups to work towards achieving common objectives.
As straightforward as that may sound, many people still have certain misconceptions about leadership that can be counterproductive to being a good and effective leader. Let’s review some of what leadership is NOT about to give us a better understanding of what it truly is.
Misconceptions about Leadership
1. There are easy and superficial recipes for being a good leader.
Leadership is a complicated ecology of influences operating within an individual, organization or community. There are no “Top 10 Lists” comprehensive enough to capture everything that makes up a healthy ecology of influences, or capture the complexity of what it takes to meet emergent challenges and thrive.
2. Leaders have “arrived” because they are smart and experienced and no longer need to learn and grow.
The more you know, the more you know you don’t know. In the Leadership Calgary program, a core concept is that we are more ignorant than wise given the huge scope of all there is to know. Our culture seems to reward “knowing” and conventional views of success where leaders stop learning or inquiring, but we fail to recognize that our environment is always changing and so much falls outside the boundaries of our immediate awareness that ongoing learning and striving – especially learning that deepens our understanding of how to inquire and think deeply, and care more broadly – is required.
3. Personal development and healthy growth in communities and organizations are not linked.
As individuals develop and connect to a more meaningful and honest way of living and working with others, the organization or community around them benefits from their new approaches to problem solving and relationships, learning by example and experiencing real adaptive change in how things run and in the delivery of more effective programs and services.
4. Leaders should have special status, privilege or entitlement – others should treat them differently.
This actually has a toxic effect on the culture and triggers resentment and mistrust whether overtly expressed or not.
5. Leadership is about setting a vision; others in the organization need to worry about building the capacity to achieve it.
Old models of strategic planning are going the way of the dinosaur. Given the complex and emergent nature of the threats and opportunities that non profits face, a more emergent, achievable-in- stages, strategy with built in milestones and decision points to monitor progress is more realistic and conducive to getting things done. The “set the vision and run model” often ends in failure to get results.
6. Leadership is about getting things done, rather than deeply examining what most needs doing.
Being smart with everyone’s time is important if you want to have real impact through your programs and services. Ensure you are busy with the important things and removing obstacles and fixing the things that are frustrating or demotivating or not working for you and the people you serve.
The sooner we get rid of these misconceptions, the sooner we can start building effective leadership skills.
Are you interested in nurturing and/or building effective leadership skills? Check out Volunteer Calgary’s training courses on Leadership: Developing Leadership in Organizations and for Advanced Leaders – the Leadership Calgary Program