7 Things We Get Wrong about Leadership

Britt Mooney

Contributing Writer
Published Apr 15, 2024
7 Things We Get Wrong about Leadership
Brought to you by Christianity.com

God has designed leadership, and as with all of his works, leadership has a purpose and a goal. We can see the first model of leadership through the establishment of the family, and the principles of that model can be applied to any form of leadership, even the church.

Leadership books sell millions of dollars. As men and women get jobs or start businesses, many quickly realize they need help with leadership. What makes a good leader? Can I be a good leader? There are conferences, webinars, and classes where successful people in every industry teach their background and systems of leadership. And like with any subject, good and bad. Misconceptions abound.

When we discover God's idea of leadership, we realize everyone is a leader, whether an employee, CEO, parent, or child. We all have the opportunity to lead, so everyone should take the time to learn about godly leadership. And try to avoid the misconceptions.

Here are seven things we get wrong about leadership.

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hand holding figurines to signify control

1. Leadership Is about Control

Many leaders believe leadership allows them to get others to do what they think is right as if they can now control what others do. However, this notion is fundamentally flawed and fails to capture the true essence of effective leadership. Leadership is not about controlling others but about empowering and inspiring them to achieve common goals and aspirations.

True leadership involves fostering a sense of collaboration, trust, and mutual respect among team members. Rather than seeking to exert control over others, effective leaders focus on building meaningful relationships and creating an environment where individuals feel valued and motivated to contribute their best efforts.

Thinking of leadership as control overlooks the dynamic and ever-changing nature of organizations and communities. Leaders must be adaptable and open to new ideas and perspectives in today's rapidly evolving world. Trying to maintain rigid control in such circumstances can stifle innovation and hinder progress.

Leadership relying solely on control is often authoritarian and coercive, leading to resentment and disengagement among followers or even abuse in some situations. In contrast, leaders who embrace a more collaborative and inclusive approach are better equipped to inspire commitment and loyalty among their team members.

Ultimately, effective leadership is about empowering others to realize their full potential and achieve collective success. It involves fostering a culture of accountability, autonomy, and shared responsibility, where everyone feels empowered to contribute their unique talents and perspectives.

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2. Leadership Is Based on Talent

The phrase is spoken in some contexts. He or she is a "born leader," suggesting leadership is an inherent talent.

Contrary to popular belief, leadership is not solely based on talent. While talent can be an asset, it is not the sole determinant of effective leadership. Instead, true leadership encompasses a diverse range of qualities and attributes that extend far beyond innate abilities.

First and foremost, effective leadership requires the cultivation of essential skills such as communication, empathy, and decision-making. Anyone can develop and hone these skills over time through education, training, and practical experience. While talent may provide a starting point, it is the ongoing effort and dedication to mastering these skills that truly distinguish exceptional leaders.

Character and integrity play a crucial role in effective leadership. Leaders who demonstrate honesty, humility, and ethical conduct earn the trust and respect of their followers, fostering a culture of transparency and accountability within their organizations. These qualities cannot simply be inherited; they must be cultivated through conscious effort and self-reflection.

Leadership is inherently relational, requiring the ability to inspire, motivate, and empower others. Effective leaders possess strong interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, enabling them to build meaningful connections with their team members and foster a collaborative and inclusive environment.

Additionally, adaptability and resilience are essential traits for effective leadership, particularly in today's rapidly changing world. Leaders must be able to navigate uncertainty and adversity, demonstrating flexibility and creativity in the face of challenges.

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a man leading a group, characteristics of leaders

3. Leaders Have All the Answers

Some leaders feel stress or burnout due to a belief that they need to have all the answers. They feel needing help or admitting a lack of knowledge makes them less of a leader.

The misconception that leaders have all the answers fails to acknowledge the complexities and uncertainties inherent in leadership roles. Effective leaders understand that they do not possess all the answers and recognize the importance of humility, collaboration, and continuous learning in their leadership approach.

Leaders who falsely believe they have all the answers risk becoming closed-minded and resistant to input from others. This mindset can hinder innovation, creativity, and problem-solving within organizations. The company or organization also suffers from a lack of collaboration and growth. Instead, effective leaders foster an environment where diverse perspectives are valued and encouraged, recognizing that collective wisdom often leads to better decision-making and outcomes.

As mentioned above, the expectation leaders should have all the answers can place undue pressure and stress on individuals in leadership positions. It creates unrealistic standards and can lead to burnout and exhaustion. Effective leaders are not afraid to recognize their limitations and seek advice, guidance, and support from others when faced with challenges or uncertainty.

This misconception belief undermines the importance of delegation and empowerment within organizations. Effective leaders understand the value of empowering their team members and trusting them to make meaningful contributions.

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4. Leadership Equals Popularity

4. Leadership Equals Popularity

Especially in a society where we elect leaders, some can believe the most popular people should have the power to make important decisions as if fame equals quality of character and integrity. At the same time, others seek leadership positions to find popularity or fame.

The misconception that leadership equals popularity oversimplifies effective leadership's complexities and undermines the true essence of leading with integrity and vision. Contrary to this belief, effective leadership is not about being the most popular or well-liked person; it is about inspiring and guiding others toward a shared purpose or goal.

Popularity may garner attention and superficial admiration but does not necessarily translate into effective leadership. Leaders who prioritize popularity over substance often prioritize short-term approval over long-term success, leading to decisions that may be popular in the moment but lack strategic foresight and sustainability.

Equating leadership with popularity can lead to a focus on personal charisma and charm rather than on the qualities and skills that truly make a leader effective. While charisma can be an asset for leaders, it is not a substitute for competence, integrity, and the ability to inspire trust and confidence in others.

Effective leaders understand that their role is not to seek popularity for its own sake but rather to earn the respect and trust of their team members through their actions, decisions, and character. They prioritize honesty, transparency, and accountability, even when challenging or unpopular.

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Woman at working looking stressed

5. Leadership Is a Solo Endeavor

The corporate ladder mentality creates a belief that one person at the top drives the whole endeavor, causing leaders to think they must lead alone. Or perhaps a leader believes the position exists for their personal achievement or success.

The misconception that leadership is a solo endeavor overlooks the collaborative nature of effective leadership and the importance of teamwork. Effective leadership involves not only guiding and inspiring others but also working collaboratively with team members to harness their collective strengths and expertise.

Leadership is not about individual achievement or glory but about empowering others and leveraging their talents to drive success. Effective leaders recognize that they cannot accomplish everything alone and actively seek input, feedback, and support from their team members. In this way, everyone succeeds together.

The belief that leadership is a solo endeavor can lead to micromanagement and a lack of delegation, as leaders may feel the need to control every aspect of a project or initiative. This approach stifles innovation, autonomy, and creativity within teams and can ultimately hinder organizational growth and effectiveness.

Effective leaders, on the other hand, empower their team members to take ownership of their work, delegate tasks appropriately, and provide guidance and support as needed. They understand the importance of fostering a sense of shared purpose and collaboration, recognizing that they can achieve far more together than they could alone.

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6. Leadership Is about a Title

6. Leadership Is about a Title

Some believe attaining a title brings respect, authority, and importance, as if the name on the desk or door is sufficient for good leadership.

The misconception that leadership is about a title diminishes the true essence of effective leadership and ignores the impact of influence and character. Leadership transcends mere titles and positions of authority, encompassing qualities such as vision, integrity, and the ability to inspire and motivate others.

Leadership is earned through actions, attitudes, and behaviors, demonstrating a commitment to serving others and achieving common goals. True leaders lead by example, regardless of their formal designation within an organization.

Equating leadership with a title overlooks the potential for leadership to emerge at all levels of an organization. While those in formal leadership positions may have authority and responsibility, true leadership can be exhibited by individuals throughout the organization who demonstrate initiative, innovation, and a willingness to take on challenges.

Believing that leadership is about a title can lead to complacency and a lack of accountability among those in positions of authority. When leadership is solely associated with a title, individuals may rely on their position to exert influence rather than earning the respect and trust of their team members through their actions and character.

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Workers and businessmen shaking hands

7. Leadership Is about Being Served

When becoming a leader, especially thinking in terms of a hierarchy, as if people work below them, then an individual can believe the employees exist to serve the leader.

The misconception that leadership is about being served misinterprets the fundamental principles of effective leadership and distorts the relationship between leaders and their followers. True leadership is rooted in service and a commitment to the well-being and success of others.

Effective leaders seek to serve others, prioritizing the needs of their team members to help everyone succeed. Rather than seeking personal gain or recognition, these leaders focus on empowering and uplifting those they lead, fostering a culture of collaboration and mutual respect.

The idea that leadership is about being served perpetuates an authoritarian model of leadership, where leaders wield power and control over their subordinates. This approach undermines trust and stifles organizational innovation and creativity, as team members may feel disempowered and undervalued. In contrast, effective leaders lead by example, demonstrating humility, empathy, and a willingness to roll up their sleeves and work alongside their team members.

Moreover, the belief that leadership is about being served can lead to entitlement and a sense of entitlement among those in positions of authority. When leaders expect to be served rather than to serve, they may become disconnected from the needs and concerns of their team members, ultimately undermining morale and productivity.

In Matthew 20, Jesus teaches his disciples about leadership. The Gentiles, he says, lord leadership over others. They rule them and try to control them.

It won't be like that with you, Jesus explains. Why? Because the Kingdom of God, the eternal and heavenly reality, isn't like that. We should serve others to be great in the Kingdom and have eternal value. Jesus modeled this by coming not to be served, but to serve. If anyone deserved to be served, to demand it, it was Jesus. Yet through his humility, he acquired a name above all names through his Father (Philippians 2).

We can all embody this leadership. Whether as a parent, a child, an employee, a manager, or a pastor, everyone can serve. Let us learn from Jesus, walking with him, how to lead through service and love in every circumstance.

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This article originally appeared on Christianity.com. For more faith-building resources, visit Christianity.com. Christianity.com

Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.

Originally published Friday, 26 April 2024.