The concept of what Leadership is all about, although widely debated, has been acknowledged as one of the least understood concepts across all cultures and civilizations. Over the years, many speakers and writers have stressed the widespread nature of this misunderstanding, pointing out that the existence of several flawed assumptions, or myths, concerning leadership often interferes with individualsÂ’ conception of what leadership is all about.
The concept of what Leadership is all about, although widely debated, has been acknowledged as one of the least understood concepts across all cultures and civilizations. Over the years, many speakers and writers have stressed the widespread nature of this misunderstanding, pointing out that the existence of several flawed assumptions, or myths, concerning leadership often interferes with individuals’ conception of what leadership is all about.
Here are some of the myths that are perpetuated:
Leadership is innate
Some commentators assert the leadership is determined by distinctive dispositional characteristics present at birth (e.g., personal qualities such extraversion, intelligence and ingenuity). However, it is important to note that leadership also develops through hard work and careful observation. Thus, effective leadership can result from nature, in that a person already possesses certain innate talents, plus those absorbed from within their upbringing – acquired skills.
Leadership is possessing power over others
Undoubtedly, leadership is a form of power, it is not necessarily defined by power over people – rather, it is a power with people that exists as a reciprocal relationship between a leader and their followers Contrary to popular belief, the use of manipulation, coercion, and domination to influence others is not a requirement for leadership. In reality, individuals who seek group consent and strive to act in the best interests of others can also become effective leaders, which is evident in schools where prefects are chosen, or magistrates.
Leaders are positively influential
The veracity of the claim that groups flourish when guided by effective leaders can be borne out by citing a few examples. For instance, the bystander effect, when people fail to respond or offer assistance that crops up within groups faced with an emergency is seen to be somewhat reduced in a group which is guided by a leader. In addition, it has been shown that group performance, creativity, and efficiency all tend to climb in businesses with efficient managers. However, it must be pointed out that the difference a leader makes may not always be positive in nature. Leaders sometimes focus on fulfilling their own agendas at the expense of others, including their followers. Leaders who focus on personal gain by employing stringent and manipulative leadership styles often make a difference, but usually do so through negative means.
Leaders entirely control group outcomes
In Western oriented cultures it is generally assumed that group leaders make all the difference when it comes to group influence and overall goal-attainment. Although this may be fairly common, this romanticized view of leadership (i.e., the tendency to overestimate the degree of control leaders have over their groups and their groups’ outcomes) ignores the existence of many other factors that influence group dynamics. For example, group cohesion, communication patterns among members, individual personality traits, group context, the nature or orientation of the work, as well as behavioral norms and established standards tend to influence group performance with variable outcomes. For this reason, it is not entirely correct to assume that all leaders are in complete control of their groups' achievements.
All groups have a designated leader
In spite of somewhat preconceived ideas, all groups need not necessarily have a designated leader. Groups that are primarily composed of women, are limited in size, are free from stressful decision-making, or only exist for a short period of time, often undergo changes in responsibility, where leadership tasks and roles are then shared amongst the group members.
Group members resist leaders
Although observation has shown that group members’ dependence on group leaders can lead to reduced self-reliance and overall group strength, most people actually prefer to be led by someone, rather than drift along, rudderless. This "need for a leader" can become particularly apparent in groups that are experiencing some sort of conflict. The members of a group tend to be more contented and productive when they have a leader to guide them. Although in some cases, individuals filling leadership roles can be a direct source of aggravation for some team members, most people appreciate the positive role that a leader can play.
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