Episode 4: One of The Greatest Misconceptions of Leadership

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When it comes to the common knowledge and common practice of leadership, there is superficial information as well as misconceptions of what leadership is and how leaders should work. In this episode, we are going to talk about one of the biggest misconceptions about leadership today.

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • What are the greatest misconceptions of leadership today?
  • How leadership styles are often presented and why having only one leadership style would lead to failure?
  • Do we lean towards certain leadership styles? Why it’s not always a good thing?
  • Why do following good principles of leadership make you an effective leader?

Full Episode Transcript


Greatest misconceptions of leadership today

Now, what is this misconception? To me, it’s leadership styles.

Many people get leadership styles wrong and it’s dangerous and scary in ways because we’ve talked about the state of leadership in our country, in our world, in our businesses, and such. And we’ve also talked about the kind levels of knowledge and the superficial, and that sometimes people think having a certain quality or trait makes them a good leader or makes someone a good leader.

And I think that happens with leadership styles. It’s a surface-level knowledge of what’s often presented that people follow and think it makes them good leaders. They think, oh, if I know what leadership style I am, then I’m going to be a great leader.

And that’s just not true because it’s not about knowing your style, it’s about having good qualities and following good principles of leadership. When you search for leadership online, leadership styles are the number two search for leadership.

"It's not about knowing your style, it's about having good qualities and following good principles of leadership." ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet

Leadership itself is number one. Leadership styles is number two. And what’s often presented and given to people in these articles were wrong. Then, people live these things and try these things thinking it’s going to make them good leaders. And it’s not. Now, why is that?

Well, let’s kind of dive into it some more. Leadership styles are just really a theory about leadership. Researchers over the years have tried to steady what makes a good leader. They’ve looked at relationships between the leader and the employee. They’ve looked at skills and traits and behaviors and so on. And leadership styles are really just a kind of behavior theory when it comes to leadership.


How leadership styles are often presented?

There are different kinds of versions of it too. So there’s not just the one that I’m speaking of here, there are different viewpoints, I guess even on leadership styles. But the one I’m talking about now is the one that’s really often and presented online mostly and so on.

So how is it often presented? Well, this is what you’re often told, there are multiple leadership styles. So for example, you could be affiliative, authoritarian, diplomatic, delegative, bureaucratic, transformative, transactional, coaching, visionary, or charismatic.

Some people include transformational and servant leadership and so on. So there are all these styles and you are one of them. And if you want to be an effective leader, you need to find which style you are, because all of them are equal.

You just need to know which one you are so you can be the best you, you are as a leader. So they present that and then they say, oh, you can’t always be that one style though, because sometimes you have to do other things. You know, you may be diplomatic, but sometimes you need to coach.

So you need to switch from your diplomatic and go to coaching and coach and then you switch back. So you, well, I’m diplomatic now, so let me switch. Oh, I’m coaching now let me switch back. And really all of that’s kind of silly because for a number of reasons.

First of all, you can’t just be one style. If you are one style and you just live that one style, you’re going to fail as a leader, period. And really a lot of these styles that they talk about, some you don’t really want to be, but a lot of the styles they talk about are really functions or things you should be doing as a leader.

For example, you should be building relationships with people. You should be coaching and mentoring. You should be delegating, you should be getting other people’s input at times. Sometimes a leader, you just need to make the decision.

All those different things are things maybe you should be doing in different ways at different times. And the idea that we have to switch styles is silly because think of it as a carpenter, when a carpenter’s cutting wood, he’s not doing his cutting wood style and oh, he’s measuring the wood now. So it’s his measuring style.

And I could keep going on, but that’s silly kind of with baseball, while I’m doing my bathing style, oh I’m doing my running style to base. Oh no, now I’m doing my catch-the-ball style. No, that’s silly. These are functions that you do as a leader to be a good leader. You should coach, you should build relationships, and so on. You can’t just be one. You don’t just switch from one to the other.


Do we lean towards certain leadership styles?

They’re just who you are as a leader. And those are things you do as a situation needs. You can be more than one at one time.

Now the question is, do we lean towards certain styles? Sure, yes. We may lean toward being very diplomatic. We may lean toward being very authoritarian. We may lean toward being very affiliative, and building relationships or delegating.

There may be things we lean to, and we may love coaching, but just because we lean to that doesn’t mean that’s what we should always do. Because we as a leader have different functions, and different things we’re supposed to do, and we do it as it’s needed.

It’s good to know which way we lean because then we can work on the things in the areas that we’re weak in. Or if we’re always trying to coach people when that’s not always needed, maybe we can reel it back in.

If we’re always trying to get everybody’s input, even when it’s not needed, we can reel that back in. We can be aware, aware of our tendencies so we can be better. And take note though, that just because we lean a certain way doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

Now, we may lean a certain way because of our personality, and that’s understandable, but we sometimes lean certain ways because of our insecurities. Someone who’s very insecure or has a high ego may lean toward authoritarian because it makes them feel more secure or more confident. They are commending people around and micromanaging people or because of their ego, they think they know best.

So, they do tell everybody what to do. Some people who are insecure may be diplomatic because they are afraid of making a mistake. They are afraid of making the wrong decision. So it makes them feel better to get everybody’s input because if the decisions are made, then it’s not really their fault.

That’s everybody else’s too. Somebody may lean affiliative and they love that, but then they might disregard everything else. So just because we lean towards something doesn’t mean it’s good. Some people lean toward being a jerk, but it doesn’t mean you should be a jerk.

So again, just because we lean towards something doesn’t mean it’s what we should always do, although it’s always good. So that’s something to really take note of because leadership isn’t based on your personality. It’s not based on your tendencies or insecurities. It’s based on good principles.


Following good principles of leadership is the way to go.

Now, does this mean we don’t have our own approach to the way we do things? We sure do because we have different personalities and so on. If you’re following good principles of leadership, then the way you approach it, that’s probably okay as long as you’re not doing some of those tendencies that often make people more of a poor, bad leader.

Also, think about when it comes to a lot of the great leadership books, and you have all the John Maxwell books, you have all the Jim Collins books, Simon Sinek, and so many others. Do they focus on leadership styles? Do they say, oh, if you just know your style, you are going to be an effective leader? No. No.

What makes you effective is following good principles of leadership. Now, again, it’s good to know which ways you lean, because if you lean authoritarian and you micromanage people, you want to know that. So you can get better at that. If you lean toward affiliative and always build relationships, but you ignore getting results, that’s good to know. So you can work against that. So you can build those relationships, but also get results.

If you always get input from others and end up wasting time on decisions that really don’t need everybody’s input or you’re always trying to get consensus when that doesn’t really work, then yes, you need to know that so that you can work on them.

So kind of to sum it up, leadership styles to me is one of the biggest misconceptions because of that level one surface knowledge. People feel that if I just know my style, I’ll be a good leader, and leadership is so much more than that.

So I do encourage, you to know yourself, know your leanings, and know which way you go, but don’t just think that following what your leanings are will make you a good leader.

"What makes you a good leader is following good principles of leadership." ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of No More Bad Leaders. If this episode meant something to you, I would be honored if you share it with someone who would benefit from it. You can find more episodes here.

If you have any comments, questions, or inquiries, feel free to contact me.

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