3 Myths About Leadership – Your “Matrix” Moment
In the 1999 groundbreaking movie, “The Matrix”, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) offers Neo (Keanu Reeves) a choice between a blue pill and a red pill. If Neo took the blue pill, he would wake up and continue believing whatever he wanted to believe about his life. If he took the red pill, he would stay and learn the truth about the Matrix.
This is your “Matrix” moment. It’s time for you to make a choice to either continue believing what you’ve been told about leadership or continue reading to learn some myths and truths about leadership.
When I began teaching graduate-level leadership courses 10-years ago, I noticed a disconnect between what is taught in academic settings versus non-academic ones and confusion about what is required to be a good leader? Like Neo in The Matrix, I knew there was something more and set out on a journey of research and self-discovery. My insights were published in 2017 in my book, Prescribing Leadership in Healthcare. Although it was healthcare focused, the findings apply to most industries. Here are some of the myths about leadership I’ve uncovered.
Myth #1. Leadership is a skill anyone can learn.
This is probably the biggest misnomer about leadership. People focus on improving their leadership skills when leadership is actually a process. If leadership was a skill, anyone with some basic knowledge of leadership could be taught to be an effective leader and that simply is not the case. Some people are destined to be good leaders and others are not.
We’ve all known people who could play a sport as good as some pro athletes or could sing better than some great performers or paint as well as some well-known artists. What separates these ‘amateurs’ from the professionals is they lack the improvement process and practice regimen to fully develop their talents. The same can be said about leadership. It is a process that a person must practice every day to reach their full potential as a leader. The more detailed Professional Leadership Process™ is described in my book, but in general, the process follows these steps:
Learn –> Practice –> Review –> Adjust
If you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to improving your leadership.
Myth #2. A person must be ‘X’ to be a good leader.
In this statement, ‘X’ represents the term of the day/month/year. There are so many words people have used to describe what a good leader needs to be, it has become confusing. On one post, someone asked people to list a word that best describes leadership. In just a weekend, there were over 1,000 words people listed. Although some of the words were duplicated or similar, it proves that opinions vary widely as to what leadership is. The bottom line is that none of it really matters because the only thing a leader can be is them self. You cannot lead like me. I cannot lead like you. A leader must know who they are, know who their people are and develop a leadership approach that works for them.
Leadership is not one thing, it’s many things. That is why a personalized, continuously-improving leadership process is needed.
Myth #3. The only way to become a better leader is by taking more classes or reading more books.
At a recent conference, I had someone remark how the leadership books in the resource area were all about the same. I’m not surprised by this because if you read enough books or take enough classes, you’ll come to the same conclusion. That is why we teach a personalized, continuously-improving approach to leadership in my classes and in my book. It is designed to be learned once and improved over time with regular reflection and coaching. It’s not about more classes or books, it’s about self-reflection, regular feedback and adapting your leadership approach to given situations.
Now that you are armed with the truth about leadership, what will you do with it? Will you continue on your current path or will you embrace the process and prepare every day for the agents seeking to derail your leadership improvement? “Where you go from here is a choice that is up to you,” Neo (paraphrased).