Leadership - Article


By Peter Schwab
Director of Coaching
AFL Game Development

John Maxwell in his book the 360 degree leader looks at common misconceptions about leadership or as he states leadership myths.

People aspiring to a leadership position can often have a misconception about being a leader and what is required or what circumstances are needed so they can lead. Being a leader is not a position but a way of behaving which creates an environment where people feel connected, committed and valued.

My old Hawthorn coach Allan Jeans use to say, "you don’t need to respect me, but respect the position I hold within the Club."

In truth I never quite agreed with that statement. Yes I respected the position of coach of Hawthorn, but if Allan was going to be the coach I needed to respect him, and to respect him he would need to be judged by his actions.

It was clear straight away Allan was a man to respect and a leader to admire.

Another friend clarified the definition for leadership for me when she said, "Substitute the word friend for leader and friendship for leadership and you can grasp the concept better."

It just needs you to consider the attributes and behaviours you expect from a friend and that leads you to friendship. So what are the attributes and behaviours you expect of a leader and you then understand leadership a bit better.

But what are some of the excuses or as Maxwell would say the myths of leadership.

  • "I’ll lead when I’m the boss."- This implies you need the title before you actually display any inclination to lead. I’d say you will never be a leader if you’re waiting for the title. Leaders are people of action no matter whether they have the title or not
  • "When I get there I’ll lead." – This is similar to above. It’s a timing thing. As long as while you’re waiting you are preparing. Remember becoming a leader should be a lifelong process
  • "When I am a leader, I’ll have influence." – I understand some people don’t have influence but influence is earned and that means doing the hard yards and working to be better and become a leader. You can have influence without a title
  • "When I have experience I will lead." – That’s probably true, but accelerate your learning and be the best you can be now
  • "When I am leader I will have freedom." – Now that is a myth. Leaders have limits because they have great responsibilities and with that comes enormous expectations. Not much freedom there
  • "I will fulfil my potential when I am a leader." – Your potential should always be explored whatever your role. It’s about being the best you can be now and the future will take care of itself
  • "If I am not the leader then that’s it." – Yes it will be because the organisation doesn’t need you anyway

So here’s a checklist for you:

  1. Assess yourself honestly and then ask others you truly believe will be honest with you and whose opinions you respect.
  2. Ask yourself how can I be better, what skills and knowledge do I need.
  3. Where do I currently sit within the organisation and what can I do from a leadership perspective from my current position.
  4. What’s my future within the organisation.
  5. What will stop me achieving and can I control those factors or not.
  6. Who can help me get better.

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