The term “leader” often evokes a certain persona or imagery. However, this image is often marred with many biases. These prejudices prevent us from recognising the real self of a leader. These biases consequently affect how we perceive ourselves as leaders and often lead to misconceptions. These misconceptions become the biggest impediments to our growth as leaders. Many times, we come to believe that we lack the inherent traits necessary for leadership, leading to self-doubt. To cultivate a new generation of confident leaders in workplaces, societies, and communities, it is essential to confront and dismantle these biases.
To begin with, we often hear that leaders with exceptional qualities are born leaders. It is the most prevalent misconception, which is well entrenched in our minds, that we often attribute the success of great leaders to innate qualities. However, this inadvertently reinforces the idea that individuals lacking these supposedly innate traits cannot achieve leadership success. It stifles the growth mindset of those who believe they lack these qualities. They end up limiting their own growth.
However, much research has proved that leaders are developed through inculcating the right values, attributes, and experiences. Many organisations actively nurture second-tier leadership by encouraging emulation, learning, and adaptation from top-tier leaders. They understand the importance of well-structured leadership development programs, mentorship, and executive learning processes in molding exceptional leaders.
The power of asking questions
Another misconception is that a leader has answers to all the questions. On the contrary, great leaders inspire people by asking thought-provoking questions and encouraging their teams to find solutions. As Tim Brown from IDEO notes, asking the right questions is pivotal for creative leadership. Leaders who inquire gain clarity on their assumptions, acquire valuable business insights, and make more informed decisions. Moreover, when leaders foster a culture of curiosity by asking insightful questions, they promote continuous learning among their team members. Nevertheless, due to our overarching belief that leaders must possess all-encompassing knowledge, we tend to undervalue those who ask questions. It is about time that we embrace curious leaders as much as knowledgeable leaders to lead to a more dynamic and adaptable culture in our ever-evolving world.
Extrovert and introvert leaders
Another common misperception revolves around the belief that leaders are primarily extroverts. Extroverts are often more visible due to their natural outgoing behavior, the way they conduct themselves with their teams, and in different scenarios, creating the impression that extroversion is a prerequisite for successful leadership. However, data reveals that introverts have also attained leadership positions in their careers and lives.
Extrovert leaders excel in social interactions, swiftly connecting with people, motivating teams, providing clarity, and enhancing communication. Conversely, introvert leaders excel at empowering team members, allowing them to shine, and maximising their abilities while still focusing on business objectives. Introvert leaders foster inclusive cultures by attentively listening to diverse viewpoints with empathy, making them less intimidating to employees. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet, Harsh Mariwala are some of the most successful introvert leaders in the world.
Numerous other misconceptions hinder us from recognising our potential as leaders. To overcome these barriers, we should engage in leadership development programs, embrace insightful observations, and place ourselves in challenging and unfamiliar situations to enhance our leadership qualities. By dispelling these biases, we can usher in a new era of diverse, adaptable, and empathetic leaders who thrive in our complex world.