What do you think of when you think of a good leader? Do you think about that strong, charismatic person, who doesn’t get too caught up in the detail but can clearly articulate what they need you to do?

Or do you think about that quiet person who just gets on with things and who somehow manages to inspire a team to do the things they want them to do?  Or somewhere in between?

Leadership is an important attribute. We need to be careful though that we don’t mythologise leadership to be a gold standard of perfection. Leaders are people, with all the flaws, foibles, and insecurities of other mere mortals.

Why do we put leadership on a pedestal? Here are the first of 16 misunderstood “facts” about leadership. I believe that these facts serve to create an unrealistic expectation of leadership.

1. A leader must always be strong

As a leader it is important that you show your vulnerabilities and ask for help when you need it.  Your team will step up and help you when you ask, they want to support a leader they trust and admire.

2. Good leaders are humble, they don’t have egos

No-one likes someone who is overly arrogant, and being humble is a good attribute, but we all have an ego.  Ego is a person’s sense of self-esteem and self-importance  – I think these are necessary for someone who is going to put themselves forward for a leadership role. It is important however, that a leader’s sense of self-importance is not used to make others feel less than them.

3. Being a leader is better than being a manager

This is one of my biggest bug-bears! Leadership is an important attribute to have in many situations, it is good to aspire to gain the skills needed to be a leader. It is not, however, more important than being a good manager. A manager is responsible for the organisation of the business or team – a manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager. You can also be a good manager without strong leadership skills. A high performing team needs a person, or people, who can provide both leadership and management.

4. A good leader is always articulate

It certainly helps your leadership if you can articulate clearly what is needed to the team – an articulate person inspires confidence and the sense that they “know what they are doing”.  We can all call great leaders to mind who were also great orators.  There are also great leaders who are quiet and not as comfortable giving well crafted, insightful speeches. They will utilise other communication skills to gain the trust of their team- they will be open, honest, straightforward. They will be human. They will have people in their team who can help them to get their message across clearly to others.

Part 2 tomorrow…