Don’t Fall into the Trap! Three Myths About Finding Great Leaders

David Barrett —  October 24, 2014 — 2 Comments
myths about great leaders expensify

To be a great leader, you can’t just put on a mask…

So much reading on the internet today revolves around what makes a good leader, what characteristics a good leader has, and ultimately, how to be a good leader.  What we forget is that leaders are inherently part of a team, and without a team of supporters, leaders don’t exist.  A true leader relies on his or her peers and surroundings to help be the most effective they can be.  Bulldoze over these myths and avoid common misconceptions when trying to identify the leaders at your organization.  You’ll be glad you did. 

Myth #1: Leaders are Assigned By Management

As much as they might like to think that’s the case, in practice leaders are nominated by peers, not selected by management.  Accordingly, you don’t need anybody’s permission to become a leader — just start leading.  You’ll know it’s working when people follow.  A good company aligns top-down management with bottom-up leadership, and thus will recognize your leadership and promote you for it.

Myth #2: Great Leaders are Larger Than Life Personalities

While there are obviously some clear examples of that (e.g. Steve Jobs), there’s many who would argue that he succeeded despite his personality, not because of it.  Rather, it’s generally accepted that the best leaders quietly enable others to be their best, rather than driving everybody toward the leader‘s own vision.  Perhaps the earliest recognition of this is in the Tao Te Ching:
The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, “Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”

Myth #3: Leaders are Born, Not Made

I think this fallacy is more damaging than any other.  Leadership is a series of learnable skills — mostly around effective listening, communication, and an empathetic creativity to truly seek out and understand another person’s position, even if it’s not very clear to them.  Ultimately, leadership is the end result of anybody seeking to increase their (hopefully positive) impact on the world beyond what they can achieve themselves.

Whether you’re an aspiring leader or searching for the right person to lead your team, keep these common myths in mind so as to find a leader that truly does what he or she is intended to do: lead.

Want to work in an environment that encourages personal growth and leadership development? Check us out – we’re hiring web and mobile engineers!

David Barrett


Founder of Expensify, destroyer of expense reports, and savior to frustrated employees worldwide.

2 responses to Don’t Fall into the Trap! Three Myths About Finding Great Leaders


    Indeed. Your boss is that person which orders you to march on the front line, a leader is that person which you follow because he’s the first on the front line.


    That’s a great way of putting it!

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