Whenever the word leadership is mentioned, a whole lot of people have opinions and perspective as to what it means and what it doesn’t. And like every other ideology, discipline or profession, there are always misconceptions as to what it is and what it isn’t.
Most of our beliefs and strongly held opinions on leadership are mainly informed by personal experiences with “Leaders”, information gleaned from books, conversations and media outlets.
LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT CHARISMA
When Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was running for President in 2011, most “intelligent” people thought he was not particularly fit for presidency. The arguments were that he looked too cool to lead a nation and that his countenance did not resonate confidence. The analysts also made reference to his inability to deliver inspiring speeches and was always staring down at his written speeches whenever he spoke.
He lacked charisma, they argued. Look at Barack Hussein Obama, they told us. Look at how he exudes presidential confidence amongst his country men.
The first misconception of leadership is that great leaders must have charisma. But the truth is Great leaders MUST have charisma.
But why then is it a misconception? The definition of charisma has been twisted on its head.
When you hear people talking about a “charismatic” leader, most are talking about a flamboyant, sweet talking person with the “gift of garb” and the ability to rouse a crowd of people.
Fair enough! But not enough.
Charisma is way beyond that. Can a leader be great without having some of these fanciful characteristics mentioned above?
Mo Ghandi was not your “typically” sweet talking-overly-confident-work-the-crowd-to-a-hysteria kind of leader. He was rather calm and reflective. He mentioned in his autobiography, the story of my experiment with truth, that he was always afraid of speaking to large groups of people. That he usually had cold feet when he found himself in front of a group of people. His fear for large audience stalled his career as a lawyer from the beginning. When he got to South Africa after his education, he was so afraid of the courtroom that he begged his superiors to let him do the paperwork instead. His lack of “charisma” would seem not to hinder his progress as a leader.
We know how well he did as a leader.
Charisma is about selling your vision to a people and telling them how you plan on fulfilling that vision. It is not about flamboyance. It is not about being a “people’s person”. It is the ability to sell a vision that people can resonate with.
When Martin Luther King sold the “I HAVE A DREAM” vision to the world, his charisma was not what got the people to follow him. His charisma was not what they bought into. They bought into his vision.
LEADERS ARE BORN
Have you ever heard somebody praise an exceptional person and how he dispenses his duties with the words “He’s a born leader“? There is the misconception among people that leadership qualities come attached to a person’s gene. We believe that because a person’s kin or ancestry boasts of great leaders, then they too should be great leaders.
That is not true.
Leaders are not born! They. Are. Made.
Yes, there are those who from very tender ages start showing great leadership traits. There are kids who seem to naturally lead their mates in play groups and peer meetings. On seeing these behaviours, one would be quick to think “oh, he was born a leader”.
Leaders are not born.
That child who seem to be more aware of how to lead his peers might have more social skills than others. He might be more emotionally aware due to his upbringing and have learnt the art of managing his emotions well.
There are no natural born leaders. It doesn’t come attached to an X gene or a Y gene. It’s not gender based either.
We might want to make reference to alpha males and alpha females amongst a group, but what makes a person alpha is usually as a result of social status, financial status or in some cases, their fearlessness.
You don’t come “Naturally” endowed with leadership skills, you learn it from your environment, books and experiences. You grow into becoming a great leader.
INTELLECTUAL ABILITIES EQUALS LEADERSHIP ABILITIES.
This erroneous belief is made strong when I was in primary school. The leadership structure of the school was designed in such a way that the person who tops the class is automatically given the post of “Class captain”. There is the ingrained belief that when a person is school smart, then he or she must be leadership smart. Big. Fat. Lie!
Academic intelligence does not equate leadership intelligence.
Some schools of thought believe that school smart can be a hindrance to becoming leadership smart. Because the average school system is designed with a “Command and control” mentality, students who are more and “class smart” than they are street smart make awful leaders. They are more focused on doing what is right, according to the books and offending no one, than doing the right things.
When Abraham Lincoln became the president of America, he was not the most “educated”. He did not have the degrees that one would envy. He was an ordinary man with an extraordinary mind. He proved beyond doubts that he was capable of leading a nation.
We have been sold a bale of lies that education equals leadership abilities. The question that begs an answer is :
What is leadership?
It is the ability to inspire others to do their best work and achieve a unified vision.
We have seen and heard of well read professionals who ran down big businesses, made a mess of public offices and could barely keep departments of companies afloat.
Leadership is more about character and intrinsic motivation than it is about educational qualifications.
It is good to get the knowledge needed to dispense your duties effectively, but that will not automatically translate to great leadership qualities.
We have shared a few misconceptions on leadership, share with us some more in the comment section . We would love to hear from you.