4 Urban Myths About Leadership Styles That Have Been Thoroughly Debunked

The reason I refer to the following myths about leadership styles as “urban myths” is because they’re just that: myths.

We all think we know the definition of an ideal leader. Perhaps a fist-wielding comunista, or a firm yet fair type with a luminescent glow emanating from them. Certainly good leaders see all, know all, are always visionaries, and always know the right things to say, right?


Business leader

1. Leaders are extroverts – the introverted of the world need not apply!

Has anyone ever accused Bill Gates of being a charismatic figurehead? Have you ever seen Warren Buffett get all crazy and bust a move while delivering one of his trademark monotone speeches about the state of the stock market? Of course you haven’t, that isn’t who they are – and I’m sure at this stage of their life and career, they’re more than comfortable with their introvert label.

Both men are in the top 3 of the World’s Richest People list currently too, with a mere $6-billion or so separating them in personal wealth. There are countless other leaders who are introverts too.

2. Leaders are visionaries – they see the future!

Not everyone can be like the legendary former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch; A visionary leader who single-handedly took the corporation from a paltry $14-billion company to a $410-billion empire after 20 years under his leadership. It’s men like him who propagate this urban myth that leaders see the future and chase their vision with unabashed clarity.

The truth is, more visionaries fail – or completely sink companies because of their vision and egos. Look at many of the flopped mega-mergers like the failed AOL-Time Warner merger back in the bust days of the dot-com bubble era. Neither Jack Levin, Steve Case, nor any of the other “visionary” leaders of the two companies are characterized as visionary leaders today. They’re veritable laughing stocks. The merger destroyed the AOL empire and caused their stock values to plummet $206-billion in less than two years.

CEO looking into the future
photo credit: Chase Elliott Clark / Flickr

3. If leaders can act the part they can get the part – fake it til you make it son!

This philosophy might work for the pick-up artist types you see all over YouTube. It also works quite well for motivational speakers who’re just starting out. After all, if you lack social or public speaking skills, you do have to approach that girl, or step up on that stage at some point and just pretend to be knowledgeable and charismatic. Thinking otherwise is akin to thinking you’re suddenly going to crawl out of financial squalor someday when you magically win the lottery.

For leaders, faking the ability to lead a company is a recipe for disaster. And the more that’s required of them in a given position, the more likely they are to fall flat on their face when challenges are placed in front of them. Pretending that your current limitations don’t exist makes you stagnant, not a leader.

Faking confidence is something teenagers do to work up the courage to talk to the cute guy or girl they like. Faking knowledge is something that might work for someone who’s trying to get a job as an auto or plumber’s apprentice (ie., learning positions). Faking leadership ability puts you front-and-center of a situation you can’t possibly fake your way out of when the chips finally fall and you have to “put up or shut up”.

4. Leaders must stay in constant communication with their staff – micromanagement is key!

We all pretty much know this urban myth to be thoroughly untrue at this point, but how many of us have dealt with the incessant boss who just wouldn’t stop calling? Worse yet, might you yourself be one of them today? It happens all over the world. Managers are taught they have to keep on their staff, watch over what they’re doing to make sure everything gets done right.

However, the real leaders out there like Richard Branson, Larry Page, Mark Cuban and many others like them know they can’t expand their businesses unless they have managers they can trust. People who can work unfettered by oversight and still produce favorable results. Until you can learn to step away and refine your hiring process to include people who can lead on their own, you’ll never find that upper strata of business you’re looking for.

Business leader

Your takeaway: Leaders are made – it’s not an inborn skill

These and many other myths about throughout business and the world at large. Hopefully, I’ve managed to debunk at least a few of them in your mind today. Transforming into a stellar leader takes practice. Many of the world’s top dogs appear so fluid in their positions that it’s hard to imagine that they weren’t simply born that way – that their destiny was set from the moment they came out of the womb.

They weren’t. Life’s challenges made them who they are. They didn’t stop to consider that being an introvert made them ineligible, or that their lack of vision disqualified them. They didn’t walk into a multi-billion dollar conglomerate to interview for a CEO position and land the gig of a lifetime simply because of their flair, wit and confidence.

They (leaders) worked hard and developed their leadership skills, plain and simple.

Don’t give into myths or assumptions about leadership. Almost anyone can be a leader. All you need are some great ideas and at least a few of the top skills needed to be a leader.