The Leadership Myth

Many consultants, academics, and self-proclaimed management
& leadership gurus perpetuate the myth that “Leadership” is some lofty,
intrinsic skill that you just “arrive at” through timing, opportunity, and
sometimes “birth.”.  Those same experts
will then explain how “management” is a basic, simple skill learned by reading
books, attending classes, and being developed in a regimented fashion.
The connection between leadership and management is
inextricable.  The two are so
interconnected that spending time arguing about the differences is akin to
arguing whether a plane can fly more because of it’s shape or engine
thrust.  It takes – needs – both to work
correctly.  The same hold true for
leadership and management.
How about a definition of leadership that makes sense, and
one that includes the obvious skills of a manager, since it’s preposterous to
assume that one could be an effective leader while being a lousy manager.  Leadership, then, is “The successful
combination of effective management practice, coupled with the personal
credibility and the ability to motivate others.”  There. 
A long way from rocket science. 
Let’s take a closer look at the 3 components: effective management
practice, personal credibility, and motivational ability.
Effective Management Practice is the foundation.  I’ll say again that it is absolutely
ridiculous to assume that an ineffective manager could be a truly successful
leader.  A manager’s core function is
largely “control;” control is necessary for a leader to “lead” in the right
direction.  The foundation for
leadership, then, is the ability to manage effectively.
Personal Credibility is necessary, since leadership
is “personal.”  People don’t follow
merely because someone has a business card that says “President,” or “Senior
Vice President,” or “Manager.”  People
follow because they believe.  They
believe that the person has a positive vision and direction.  They believe that their leader is
going to be successful, and they want to be a part of that success.  And finally, they believe that their
leader cares about them, collectively as a group, and individually.
The Ability to Motivate is likely the most significant
step “up” for an effective manager to become a successful leader.  A leader, to be successful, must have that
ability – the inherent skill – to convince others that what they are doing, or
about to do, has worth and meaning, and they will be better for it.  Leaders provide the catalyst for people to
“do more,” not just “do enough.”  Leaders
know that positive motivation, done correctly, is long-term, versus the short
term approach from using fear.  In
everything they do, in every interaction, the “what’s in it for me” is
So, if leadership and management are so closely linked, yet
all the business books and magazines describe “leadership” as the almost-holy
grail of a senior professional, how do we get there?
I have good news:
Leadership is not a birthright; it’s a learned skill.  That’s right, another myth bites the
dust.  Except for a handful of obviously
charismatic leaders mentioned in every history book (some good, some evil),
leadership is a set of learned skills that we acquire through very traditional
means, such as training, coaching, and other leadership development
efforts.  Leadership, then, can be
If leadership consists of management skills, personal
credibility, and the ability to motivate, and we also know that it can be learned,
then the sooner we embark on this path of knowledge, the sooner we can begin
using these newfound leaders in our organizations.  Take the first step…

 Kevin Berchelmann


  1. says

    Richard, thanks for commenting, and great to hear from you.

    It's not that, as a consultant and lifetime student of leadership, I don't see a difference between the two–I do.

    It's just that there's oft-times waaay too much energy spent on that difference, and woefully inadequate efforts on the synergies between them.

    But that's just me…

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