Part of being a successful entrepreneur is being a great leader. Even if you have a great idea, an open market, and a great team to help you succeed, it’s your responsibility to set the tone for the organization, motivate your people to work harder and stay with the team, and make the important decisions that will dictate the fate of your company. On top of all the daily responsibilities and financial worries you shoulder, that’s a lot of pressure.
Unfortunately, matters are often made needlessly worse by persistent myths and misconceptions about what it means to be a great leader. Before you dive too deep in the pursuit of your own leadership success, be sure you aren’t buying into these stubbornly prominent myths:
1. Effective leaders are born, not made.
There is no gene that makes a person a better leader. It’s true that a handful of genetic or unpreventable characteristics, such as independence or confidence, naturally make some people lean toward being a leader more than others, but ultimately, leadership is a skill. Like any skill, it can be acquired by anyone with a motivation to acquire it. Everyone starts out at the same skill level, but through practice and experience can improve yourself. If you feel like you weren’t born to be a leader, think again. You already have everything you need to excel in a leadership position. It’s just going to take some time to flesh those skills out.
2. It’s a leader’s job to have all the answers.
Leaders are sometimes seen as oracles who magically have answers to everyone’s questions. This applies to many areas. Leaders need to justify all their high-level decisions, or leaders need to point employees in the right direction whenever they face a problem, or leaders need to fix whatever problems come up.
This isn’t exactly the case. It’s the leader’s job to provide direction, guidance, and perspective but none of these necessitate coming up with an exact answer. You can set guidelines, provide your personal opinion and give feedback, but oftentimes, there will be no correct answer available. How can you possibly have all the answers if all the answers don’t even exist?
3. Leaders need to hide their emotions.
There’s actually a grain of truth to this myth. Leaders do need to keep their emotions in check. If you’re feeling particularly angry, throwing a tantrum in the middle of the office isn’t exactly the mature, inspiring way to express it. But being reasonable and careful with your emotions doesn’t mean you need to bury them away entirely. Some of the greatest leaders of our time achieved big results by harnessing the power of their emotions. If you’re excited, or disappointed, show it. It makes you more personable and more sympathetic. Just don’t go overboard, and you’ll be fine.
4. Successful leaders are charismatic extroverts.
The common depiction of a leader is a charismatic extrovert who is always willing to stand up, speak out and make bold decisions. These types of leaders get all the attention because their extroversion naturally attracts a bigger spotlight. Rest assured, there are just as many conservative, shy or introverted leaders out there doing just as good a job. You don’t have to be a miniature celebrity to be successful as a leader. What really matters is that you’re able to communicate with people and set a firm course for your organization. Don’t let this inaccurate stereotype of leaders fool you into thinking you won’t make a good one.
5. Leadership is a solitary role.
As the entrepreneur who launched your organization, you’ll serve as its primary leader, That doesn’t mean you’re the only leader within the organization. Your partners and department heads also serve as leaders. Your responsibility is to make sure they take their roles seriously. In a way, everyone on your team can exhibit leadership for the benefit of everyone else involved. They may not make as many high-level decisions as you, but their work style, communication and attitudes will all affect those around them. Inspire leadership in all areas of your organization, and you’ll reap the benefits, not least being it will take some of the pressure off you.
These five myths have no real bearing on the reality of leadership. It’s entirely within your own abilities to improve as a leader, establish a unique perspective and approach, and lead your people to success. The critical factors have nothing to do with predestination or any one strategy. It’s all about how you react to things around you, including what you do after making a mistake (and you will make several). Stay optimistic, adapt as necessary, and always keep moving forward.