Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Five myths about leadership


True leadership principles endure the test of time regardless of the economy or world affairs. The more you practice them the more they become part of your life.

One of the best ways to understand principles is to understand their opposites. John Maxwell — author of the book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership — does a masterful job of explaining the leadership principle of influence through the five myths about leadership:

  1. The Management Myth: Management focuses on maintaining systems and processes. Influential leadership is about influencing people to follow.
  2. The Entrepreneur Myth: People may be buying what somebody is selling (or saying), but they are not necessarily buying into his leadership or vision.
  3. The Knowledge Myth: Mental superiority does not necessarily equate to leadership.
  4. The Pioneer Myth: The one in front is not necessarily the leader. The leader is the one with the vision that people want to follow.
  5. The Position Myth: The greatest misunderstanding about leadership is that people think it’s based on position. Maxwell quotes Stanley Huffty, “It’s not the position that makes the leader; it’s the leader that makes the position.”
If you want to increase your influence, understand these five myths and practice their opposites.

Update: A good friend of mine pointed out that the myths I list are actually facts — the myths should be falsehoods. He’s right, I wrote the statements as facts, not myths. Here’s Take 2 on my interpretation of Maxwell’s five myths (written as myths):
  1. Leading and managing are one and the same
  2. All entrepreneurs are leaders
  3. Those people who possess knowledge or intelligence are leaders
  4. Anyone who is out in front of a crowd is a leader
  5. Leadership is based on position
The Product Management Perspective: Product managers need to understand each of the five myths and practice the opposite behaviors. Perhaps the one that comes most naturally is the management myth: product managers rarely manage the people or processes necessary for their products’ success. To succeed you need to build consensus and exert positive influence on the teams you work with.

4 thoughts on “Five myths about leadership

  1. In October of 2009 I started the Frame of Reference blog to focus on the innovation space. In particular, the blog is set up to collect and describe various practical solution-strategies that are available in the marketplace. The articles speak to one type of leader in particular, the thought leader. Thought leaders are responsible for selecting and orchestrating solution-strategies that include both technical and social elements, all the while navigating the double-edged corridors of the five myths that you describe.

    • Chris, your assessment of thought leaders is spot-on. When it comes to selecting and orchestrating solution-strategies it’s too easy to forget either the technical or the social elements. As you point out, it’s a key responsibility to navigate both.

      Thank you for your insight.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s