Four myths of leadership

Published 8:16 am Thursday, October 3, 2019

Myth 1: Leaders are born, not made

I’m not sure how this myth got started, but it has the ability to stall the growth of a leader just by reading or hearing it.

It suggests to some that no matter how hard you try, no matter what you do in your life you will never be a great leader because you were born without the leadership gene.

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Now I agree that you have to have a desire to be a leader, you have to want it and more importantly, you have to do it. Although you were born with the ability to be a leader, as everyone is, you must decide that you want to be one in whatever you are doing in your life.

You cannot wait for someone to tell you, “Hey, I bet you would be a good leader.”

When you decide that you want to be a leader, you must then educate yourself, find a mentor, read books, watch videos, learn from others.

True leaders soak in everything they can about whatever they are doing. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are not a natural born leader because you are, but it’s up to you to develop yourself into a leader that others will respect and follow.

Now you may say “I was born poor” or “I was born into an abusive household.”

That would count you out as a leader right?

Wrong, in fact, I believe that you would be a better leader by having to grow up in those circumstances. leaders take the issues in their life and they use them to develop themselves into the type of leader they want to be.

Now you may ask that since leaders are not born then they are made, right? My answer is yes, but not by other people, yes you should learn from others but it’s up to you to take that knowledge and apply to your life in order for you to make yourself the leader you want to be. President Lincoln is one of my favorite American leaders, but no matter how I try I will never be Abraham Lincoln, however I can study him and learn by his example and still become a great leader, just in a different way.

“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” — Vince Lombardi

Myth 2: Real leaders don’t feel fear

This myth is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. Fear is a very normal human emotion. When you develop yourself into the leader you want to be, does that mean you stop being human? Of course not.

Fear is the mind’s way of telling you that something in this situation is not right. It’s how you handle that fear that makes you a leader.

When a follower feels fear, they are worried about themselves. When a leader feels fear they are worried about their followers. A real leader will always put his/her followers first.

Danger comes at us in a lot of different ways. In the U.S. Army, it is literally a matter of life and death, but the soldiers must know that the officers will lay there life down to protect them and that they will always put themselves last or they will lose the respect of their followers and everyone will go their own way, then the body count may be higher because they lack real leadership.

Now your organization may not be a matter of life and death, but the formula is the same. You must take your fear and use it to protect your employees, you must put their needs ahead of your own, and they must know that you will always have their back, they must know you will discipline them when necessary, but you will never abandon them when danger shows up.

In 1937, there was a flood in a small community in Ohio. As rescuers were trying to save people they reached down to save this young African American woman who in turn raised her baby into the arms of the rescuers and then disappeared into the water.

That young women died saving her child. Her fear was not for herself but for her baby, she sacrificed herself for someone else.

Your followers must believe that you will sacrifice yourself for them. Now you may not take a bullet for them but they must know that you won’t steal their ideas and take credit for yourself. They must respect you.

“Fear makes us feel our humanity” — Benjamin Disraeli

Myth 3: Real leaders never make mistakes

Not only will leaders make mistakes, they will make more mistakes than their followers.

Why? Because leaders are normally the first ones to do things. They learn from the mistakes they make in order to show their followers the right way to do things. Making mistakes does not make you a bad leader, not learning from them is what makes you a bad leader.

Blaming someone else for your mistakes makes you a bad leader. Mistakes are proof that you are trying so don’t let them discourage you.

Winston Churchill made a decision to try and corner the German army and catch them by surprise. Not only did this plan fail, it cost the lives of a lot of British soldiers. He was fired from his position and was made to leave Parliament. He was a broken man that had lost everything he had worked for, he could have given up in life. Instead he joined the fighting as a soldier, he regained the respect that he had lost and in the end became the prime minister.

When you make mistakes there may be consequences’ but real leaders take risks, adapt, learn and always move forward.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually afraid you will make one” — Elbert Hubbard (1856 – 1915)

Myth 4: You have to have a position of authority to be a leader.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. The position does not make the leader, the leader makes the position.

You are more than likely in a position with authority because you have already shown that you can be a leader without it. My employer has the ability to strip me of my position, take away my title and drop me in pay but what they can’t take away is my ability to be a leader. I am a leader because I say so and I can be a leader in any position I have. Being a leader gives you a more authority then what you may think. You may not be a manager, but others respect and follow you anyway, you may do the exact same job as them and get paid the exact same money, but you do it in a way that inspires people that makes you a leader.

“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” — John Maxwell

The Rotary Club is an organization founded and operated by leaders from around the community and we are always on the lookout for other leaders to join. Maybe you want to join but don’t consider yourself a leader. You should give yourself more credit.

If you are interested in learning more about The Rotary Club, please visit

Nathan Davis is the president of the Rotary Club of Ironton. He can be reached at