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Myths of Leadership

01 May 2018 - by Geoff Ribbens

Leadership training and coaching is big business. This business is nearly always based on the myth that leadership can be identified as a "characteristic" or "quality" of the leader. Those who are said to have such qualities are trustworthy, emotionally intelligent, stable people with considerable foresight. Such commentators seem to describe what ought to be not what actually exists in the 'real world'. Look at the 4 myths of leadership and you will never look at leaders to understand leadership ever again - you will look elsewhere.

The myths;

Myth. There is no one ‘correct’ definition of leadership.

This is an every-day word that has different meanings for different people. Many commentators don’t even bother to define the concept.On closer examination the discussion tends to be meaningless -motherhood and apple pie!


Have an “operational definition”. We have one based on the reason why managers want leadership training/coaching. They want their team to: “willingly and enthusiastically accept their authority”; when this happens, you have leadership.


Myth. Leadership is just one form of authority.

There are many forms of authority in any organisation.


We have identified 60 common forms of authority split into 12 headings, both pleasant and less pleasant. Leadership profiles vary according to the situation.


Myth. Leadership is always linked to success.

Many commentators cite political leaders they approve of or are successful business leaders.


Psychopaths can have business success. Political leadership exists even when we do not approve of the leader – as long as the followers approve.


Myth. Leadership is a “quality” or a “characteristic” of the leader?

To sell leadership training it has been suggested that leadership is a quality or characteristic of the leader, this is a myth. Team members and voters follow all types of people.


Leadership exists in the minds of team members, it is a perception, an attribution, based on the team members experience and expectations. This approach has explanatory and ‘predictive’ validity.

An objective measure of leadership can be established by using Pathway Audits from


For more information please see our video  Pathway Audits - Introduction to Online Business Analysis & Diagnostic Tools  

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