The Most Dangerous Leadership Myth


Scholar Warren Bennis once said, “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” Bennis’ insight is what made him a pioneer in the contemporary field of Leadership studies, and his truth still holds today.

An Unlikely Leader

The unlikely rise to leadership of an executive I admire proves Bennis’ theory. As a young man, he said, “I didn’t like my body — I felt ugly and fat — and had zero confidence. I didn’t have my first girlfriend until I was in college because I was too shy to approach anyone. Nobody knew who I was.”

He began to systematically challenge his beliefs and change his reality. He read the classics, became involved in his community, practiced speaking, surrounded himself with people he admired, and developed his faith. His desire to learn and grow was — and still is — insatiable. Today, he is an eloquent speaker and successful businessman who is well-loved by his family and employees. He has been made into a leader. And the best part is that he knows he always has room to improve. (He overcame his shyness around women, by the way, because he married this writer.)

Inner Circle Leaders

We can improve our capacity for great leadership of our companies, communities, and homes by surrounding ourselves with others who have paved the way before us. For example, my writing mentor, Tracey, is a shark with nearly 20 years of experience who has helped me handle my largest contracts and find reliable team members. And monthly meetings and quarterly business retreats with my business coach, Glenn Smith, has provided solid structure and accountability to my personal and professional vision. In fact, you’re invited to attend his upcoming May 21 seminar, which is perfect for you if you’re an executive or owner of a business for more than three years and have three or more employees. Industry leaders like Tracey and Glenn can help us pinpoint our blind spots and fill our personal and professional gaps.

Recommended Books

We can also reach beyond our community to learn from others through fantastic books. The top choices of my corporate friends include Good to Great, by Jim Collins, and Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson, as well as the classics: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey) and How to Win Friends and Influence People (Carnegie).

Professional Events

Seminars and speakers are other great resources for raising our leadership capacity. Check out Leadercast 2015 in Tomball, Texas, this Friday, May 8, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The leadership event, which is sponsored in part my friends at Duolos Wealth Management, has assembled speakers across industries, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, NFL MVP Peyton Manning, best-selling author Seth Godin, Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, and more.

With the help of “inner circle” leaders, good books, and leadership events, we can bust through the myth — and raise our capacity for incredible leadership!

Ella Hearrean Ritchie is the owner of Stellar Communications, a Houston-based freelance editing and writing company for business leaders, publishers, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her website to find out more.


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