Most Common Misconceptions About Leadership

Top Things To Know about Most Common Misconceptions Of Leadership

Leaders are the ones who lead. They are the driving-force that guides their people. But no matter how perfect they may seem or no matter how they are regarded as an epitome of a quintessential leader, they have their flaws and doubts in the way they lead and how they should lead.

I, for example, have been into leadership since I was in grade school and I know for certain that there are instances that I hesitated some of my decisions and that short-term misunderstandings with my co-officers are inevitable. In fact, for more than a decade of leadership experience I have seen and experienced for myself countless leadership misconceptions that caused these hesitations and misunderstandings. Listed below are some of them. (Note: For reference, please see “The 3600 Leader” by John C. Maxwell.)

a.) Misconception #1: I can’t lead if I am not at the top. (The Position Myth)

Most of us have this notion that for a person to be a leader, that person should be at the top of others. Moreover, we also think that being a leader stems out from having a position. But the truth of the matter is that this is far from reality.

Maxwell said, “The true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” This means that one have to work their way into leading others by influencing people and not just simply to lead because they have been given the authority to do so. In this regard, it is better to introduce to you the “Five Levels of Leadership” to help you understand how leadership is earned.

People follow because of who you are and what you represent.
This step is reserved for leaders who have spent years growing people and organization.


  • At Level 1, you simply have to lead within the boundaries of authority given to you.
  • At Level 2, is where you lead beyond your authority because you have built relationships and connections with the people around you.
  • At Level 3, is where people start to follow you because you have succeeded in something, because of your contributions to your team.
  • At Level 4, is where people follow you because you are into helping and guiding them in developing their skills and leadership ability. And lastly,
  • at Level 5, is the level where you already excelled in leading them and thus earning your reputation as a true leader.

b.) Misconception #2: When I get to the top, then I’ll learn to lead. (The Destination Myth)

Way back when I was in my senior year in High School, I used to be the President of my school’s Student Body Organization (SBO). Being into the SBO was one of my ultimate goals before graduating high school. So, before my senior year came I already have committed myself to leadership activities and into different leadership trainings and camps – locally, nationally, and internationally. I have been preparing myself for that year so I can be my best in leading my fellow students and so that I won’t disappoint my teachers.

The same thing goes for leadership. Being an effective and efficient leader takes time. Never think that once you’re on the top, that’s only the time you act as a leader. Leadership takes one to prepare oneself and to learn the things that one needs to understand. Things should be done as early as possible because when opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.

Start from the bottom where decision-making entails lesser risks and then climb your way up in making decisions with higher risks, where the impacts are far reaching. It’s okay to commit mistakes (slight mistakes) because after all mistakes are the ones that teach us what are lacking and what needs to be improved.

c.) Misconception #3: If I were on top, then people would follow me. (The Influence Myth)

During my years in grade school, I am just a nobody. I am not good in dancing nor in singing. I am not athletic and I am not artistic as well. So, I’ve decided to be one of our class officers so that at least in this way I would be able to build connections with my classmates.

But I was wrong. Even if I was already elected into the position, I still wasn’t able to connect with them. I haven’t yet had that influence to lead them effectively. Being granted position is not synonymous as to being grated with influence. Take note that influence can never be granted, it starts from oneself and earned through time. Positions only give you an opportunity to earn and develop your influence and not the other way around.

Just remember that no matter how high your position may be, but without earned influence, less people will follow and see you as a leader.


d.) Misconception #4: When I get to the top, I’ll be in control. (The Inexperience Myth)

When I was still a student, there are times that I question the capabilities of my classmates. I have this thinking that if I were given the position, I can do it better than them.

One particular instance is during our Science Fair Day in high school. I have a classmate who was our Science class President, thus she was held responsible for making a science presentation for our class. But I doubted her work because it’s just a mere discussion about certain chemical compounds. It is not like the other class presentations where they really performed actual experiments. So as the SBO President at that time and feeling that I have more authority to make a move on this issue, I changed her presentation and did an actual experiment in her stead. However, I was wrong to believe that I am able to accomplish the task. It turned out that my presentation failed. And I wasn’t able to perform and achieve the results as how I imagined it to be.

Being on top gives you the feeling that you are invincible and are in control of everything. But this should not be the idea prevailing on one’s mind. I realized that being on top only gives you a certain degree of control but not an absolute control.

It is good that you have the desire to innovate, to improve, to create and to find better ways because they are often marks of a leader. However, being in the position without having prior experience would make you likely to overestimate the amount of control you have. Just like Maxwell said, “The higher you go – and the larger the organization – the more you realize that many factors control the organization.”

e.) Misconception #5: When I get to the top, I’ll no longer be limited. (The Freedom Myth)

We often have the idea that once we’re at the top we are limitless – that the things we can do knows no boundaries. But this notion is no more than a fantasy.

“Great powers comes great responsibilities.” This is true in leadership. There is a direct relationship with power and responsibility. The more you go up with your position, the weight of your responsibility increases as well. You’re not made unbeatable by your power, instead you are made to bear more expectations from people who knows and trusts your capabilities.

f.) Misconception #6: I can’t reach my potential if I’m not the top leader. (The Potential Myth)

Most of us believe that by being on top we can do more. But reality is, not all of us will be on top. Some of us will spend most of our time somewhere in the middle developing ourselves and making the most of our abilities. Not all who reached their potentials are those who lead. There are those who made it despite not being on top because they strived for the top of their game and not the top of the organization.

In my case, when I was in college, I believed that by graduating with honors and exemplary accomplishments is a mark of one reaching his/her potentials. But I was proven wrong. I may not have graduated the way how I imagined it to be, but I have still have been able to prove that somehow not being on top doesn’t make you less than those who are on the top of their game. Now, I am doing the most of my abilities and skills just like everybody else.

g.) Misconception #7: If I can’t get to the top, then I won’t try to lead. (The All-or-Nothing Myth)

I used to have this idea that if I am not the one at the top of my group then I won’t lead them at all. I strongly believe before that the only person capable of leading is that very person at the top of others.

I have this experience in high school during one of our school cooking activity. As I’ve told you before I have been into leadership since I was in grade school, so I was expecting that they would choose me as their group leader based on my leadership experience, but I haven’t been chosen. I got disheartened and started thinking to do nothing with the group. But I realized that I should still help them because despite not being the leader, I still have my responsibility as a member.

We may have had difficulties before, during and after preparing and cooking our dishes but we were still able to accomplish our task unlike most of the other groups who failed. We are able to do so despite of the difficulties because of our cooperation.

The same thing goes with leadership. It requires cooperation all-over the group. Meaning, leadership may emanate from the top, middle or bottom. You should not belittle yourself because you are just the cook, the dishwasher, the leader or any other position because anyone from wherever in the organization can make an impact. It doesn’t take one to be the top dog to make a difference – anyone can. You just have to have the principles and skills to lead the people above, beside and below you.

[show-team  orderby=’title’ ids=’219′ url=’inactive’ layout=’pager’ style=’img-circle,img-white-border,text-left,thumbs-below,img-above’ display=’photo,website,position,social,freehtml,location,email,telephone,smallicons,name,groups’ img=’400,200′]