The Mythical Leader: The Seven Myths of Leadership by Ron Edmondson. Thomas Nelson. 221 pages. 2017
I have enjoyed the author’s leadership blog for the past few years and was very much looking forward to this new book – and I was not disappointed. The author has been a senior leader in business, government and the church so he is well-qualified to write this book on leadership. The book is well-written and practical, with helpful takeaways such as six casualties of people-pleasers and four wrong ways to respond to criticism.
The author writes that in his work with hundreds of pastors and churches, the single most common need he has found is the need for more effective leadership in the local church. I agree with him that seminaries don’t teach pastors to lead (but they should). In this book, he exposes some of the common misunderstandings of leadership, shares stories from his experience, and helps the reader develop healthier patterns to improve individual leadership skills.
The seven myths he addresses are:
Myth 1: A Position Will Make Me a Leader. This myth reminded me of “Level 1: Position”, from John Maxwell’s book The Five Levels of Leadership. The author writes that your title does not matter. What matters is how you carry out the work you are responsible for doing. He tells us that ultimate leadership is proven not by position or title, rather when, by our sacrifice, we help make life better for other people.
Myth 2: If I Am Not Hearing Anyone Complain, Everyone Must Be Happy. One good takeaway I got from this particular myth was to never assume agreement by silence. Never assume people are on board because they have not indicated otherwise.
Myth 3: I Can Lead Everyone the Same Way. I’ve always said that I don’t treat everyone the same way, but I treat everyone equally fairly. The author states that when you fail to remember that people are different, you frustrate the people you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team, and worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential. He states that people are different and require different leadership styles.
Myth 4: Leadership and Management Are the Same Thing. The author tells us that leadership and management are not equal and they require different skills. Every organization needs both leadership and management. Leadership is more about empowerment and guiding people to a common vision, while management is more about maintaining efficiency toward a predetermined destination.
Myth 5: Being the Leader Makes Me Popular. The author states that there is sometimes a loneliness in leadership that cannot be avoided. He tells us that we should not offer to lead if we are not willing to sometimes stand alone. He writes that the goal of leadership is not to make everyone happy. It is to lead people to a better reality than they know today.
Myth 6: Leaders Must Have Charisma and Be Extroverts. I found this section to be particularly helpful as I am a leader who is an introvert. In the past, I’ve taken personality assessments indicating that I (as an introvert) would not make a good leader. The author, an introvert himself, tells us otherwise.
Myth 7: Leaders Accomplish by Controlling Others. We’ve probably all worked with a controlling leader. He writes that controlling produces horrible overall results for the organization, keep people from developing as leaders themselves, and rob the organization of their leadership potential. He states that you cannot lead well and be a control freak at the same time. In fact, controlling is not really leadership, but closer to dictatorship.
I enjoyed and benefitted from this book. I would recommend that you not only read it yourself, but with a group of leaders or with a mentee. Check out the author’s blog here.