John Maxwell & the Leadership’s myths

I became very interested in Leadership after having read Stephen Covey and share his thoughts through the numerous seminars that I facilitated through the years.

Great & famous men of the like of: Winston Churchill defying the Nazi threat as much of Europe had collapsed. Mahatma Gandhi leading a 200-mile march to the sea to protest the Salt Act. Martin Luther King Jr. standing before the Lincoln Memorial challenging the nation with his dream of reconciliation.

Each of these people was a great leader. Each made an impact that has touched millions of people. Yet these pictures can also be misleading. The reality is that 99 percent of all leadership occurs not from the top but from the middle of an organization. Usually, an organization has only one person who is the leader. So, what do you do if you are not that one person?

Can I be a leader even if I am not on the top of the heap? I read some time ago the 7 myths proposed by John C Maxwell, a well-known expert and a prolific author on Leadership.

1. The Position Myth

The number one misconception people have about leaders is the belief that leadership comes simply from having a position or title. But nothing could be further from the truth. You don’t need to possess a position at the top of your group, department, division or organization in order to lead. If you think you do, then you have bought into the position myth.

The true measure of leadership is influence — nothing more, nothing less. Leadership is dynamic, and the right to lead must be earned individually with each person you
meet. Where you are on the “staircase of leadership” depends on your history with that person.

Position has little to do with genuine leadership. Influencing others is a matter of disposition, not position. Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit.
Anyone can choose to become a leader wherever he or she is. You can make a difference no matter where you are.

2. The Destination Myth

Those who believe the destination myth might say, “When I get to the top, then I’ll learn to lead.”

But, if you want to succeed, you need to learn as much as you can about leadership before you have a leadership position. Good leadership is learned in the trenches. If you don’t try out your leadership skills and decision-making process when the stakes are small and the risks are low, you’re likely to get into trouble at higher levels when the cost of mistakes is high, the impact is far-reaching, and the exposure is greater. Mistakes made on a small scale can be easily overcome.

Mistakes made when you’re at the top cost the organization greatly and they damage a leader’s credibility. Start now to adopt the thinking, learn the skills, and develop the habits of the person you wish to be. Handle today so that it prepares you for tomorrow.

3. The Influence Myth

Those who believe the influence myth might say, “If I were on top, then people would follow me.” People who have no leadership experience have a tendency to overestimate the importance of a leadership title. You may be able to grant someone a position, but you cannot grant him or her real leadership. Influence must be earned. A position gives you a chance. It gives you the opportunity to try out your leadership. It asks people to give you the benefit of the doubt for a while. But given some time, you will earn your level of influence — for better or worse.
Good leaders will gain in influence behind their stated position. Remember, a position doesn’t make a leader, but a leader can make a position.

4. The Inexperience Myth

Although the desire to improve an organization and the belief that you’re capable of doing it are often the marks of a leader, without experience being the top person in an organization, you would likely overestimate the amount of control you have at the top. The higher you go and the larger the organization, the more you realize that many factors control the organization. More than ever, when you are at the top, you need every bit of influence you can muster. Your position does not give you total control — or protect you.

5. The Freedom Myth

Those who believe the freedom myth might say, “When I get to the top, I’ll no longer be limited.”
But when you move up in an organization, the weight of your responsibility increases. In many organizations, as you move up the ladder, you may even find that the amount of responsibility you take on increases faster than the amount of authority you receive. When you go higher, more is expected of you, the pressure is greater, and the impact of your decisions weighs more heavily. Leaders have more obligations and, because of that, they become more limited in terms of their freedom. It is a limitation they choose willingly, but they are limited just the same.

6. The Potential Myth

Someone who believes the potential myth would say, “I can’t reach my potential if I’m not the top leader.” People should strive for the top of their game, not the top of the organization. Each of us should work to reach our potential, not necessarily the corner office. Sometimes you can make the greatest impact from somewhere other than first place.

7. The All-or-Nothing Myth

Someone who believes the all-or-nothing myth might say, “If I can’t get to the top, then I won’t try to lead.” Some people in the middle become frustrated by their position in an organization because they define success as being “on top.” As a result, they believe that if they are not on top, they are not successful. If that frustration lasts long enough, they can become disillusioned, bitter and cynical. If it gets to that point, instead of being a help to themselves and their organization, they become a hindrance. Improve your leadership and you can impact your organization. You can change people’s lives. You can be someone who adds value. You can learn to influence people at every level of the organization — even if you never get to the top. By helping others, you can help yourself.


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