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Myth-busters: "A great leader can lead anywhere"

Do some really have greatness thrust upon them?

The myth

A great leader in an organisation is a born leader. They can take their leadership style anywhere in the world and be successful. Great leaders are charismatic and extroverted, and they don't need a second opinion to make a tough call. So long as someone is equipped with these attributes, they're guaranteed to succeed. 
Why does the myth exist?

Historically, leaders with these traits have been chosen, or rather have chosen themselves, to lead. And why not? How can you ignore an extroverted, dynamic person with bags of charisma? Those kinds of people are always going to hustle their way to the front and have people back them – especially if you compare this personality type with an introvert.

Because so many of these personality types have ended up in the hot seat, people have eventually come to think that this is the undisputed winning formula – that people like this are the born leaders for any organisation. And with that assumption, people have come to discount other possible leadership styles. 

The truth?

There is no fixed paradigm of leadership. Whoever said that it takes an outgoing, commanding presence to lead an organisation to great success obviously forgot to tell Bill Gates – Microsoft's net worth currently stands at around $290 billion. Gates is a testament to the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. 

The fact is, in the new world of work, what makes an effective leader has changed dramatically. Our Emerging Leaders in Europe report established that the attributes required for success in a post-economic crisis environment would differ to those of the past – most notably when you compare conventional male and female leadership styles.

The "tried-and-tested" traits of decisiveness, extroversion and motivation as the key markers of effective leadership are now being matched, and even superseded, by the likes of abstract thinking, communicative approaches, and collaboration. Leadership is increasingly becoming defined by opening up the floor to other perspectives – not being the sole person who informs the decision-making process. Being decisive is still crucial, but there’s more one way to create to confidence in your ability to lead and join all the dots up. 

In conclusion...

Even if we set out a stall for a new brand of leadership, there's still no guarantee that it can be successful anywhere. 

Just because someone was successful before, it doesn't guarantee success for the future. Organisations need to accept that they cannot be sure of success when attempting to replicate the past glories of others by poaching leaders. Effective leadership is transforming and, most importantly, it is contextual.  

The fortunes of an organisation are dependent on a great many things – the workforce, cultural fit, economic climate, the list goes on. The right leader for today isn't necessarily the right one for tomorrow. 
The question for employers, therefore, is: do you know the right leader YOU need today and do you know where to find the right leader for tomorrow?


Learn about how you can find the right leader for your business  

Read more from our myth-buster series

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Tim Drake
Tim Drake

On 16 November 2016 by Tim Drake

Tim Drake is Head of Talent Management UK for Hudson.

Other posts by Tim Drake
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