8 myths of leadership (by a STEM leader)

Tips from the author of 'Transforming your STEM Career Through Leadership and Innovation'

Pamela McCauley Bush, PhDDr. Pamela McCauley Bush is a nationally recognized speaker, author and full professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems at the University of Central Florida, where she leads the Human Factors in Disaster Management Research Team.  She is currently pursuing her research as a Fulbright Scholar in New Zealand. These tips are from her book Transforming your STEM Career Through Leadership and Innovation, published this year by Elsevier.

For an article about Dr. Bush and her inspiration for this book, read the article in Elsevier Connect.

Myth #1: Leadership is a rare skill.

Nothing can be further from the truth as this skill is present and demonstrated in almost everyone in one environment or another. While great leaders and recognition of tremendous leadership feats may be rare, everyone has leadership potential. More importantly, people may be leaders in one organization (i.e., professional societies, social organizations) and have quite ordinary roles in another (i.e., within one’s work environment). The truth is that leadership skills are present at varying degrees in almost everyone. The degrees to which we develop those skills and apply them to the environments that matter to us determine the degree of leadership that will be realized.

Myth #2: Leaders are born, not made.

Don’t believe this for a minute. The truth is that major capacities and competencies of leadership can be learned. We all have the capacity to learn, grow, and improve if the basic desire to develop is present.

Myth #3: Leaders are charismatic.

Some are, most aren’t. Charisma is a useful tool but, in some cases, it is the result of effective leadership, not the other way around. When charisma is coupled with character, those who have it are granted a certain amount of respect and even awe by their followers, which increases the bond of attraction between them.

Myth #4: Leadership exists only at the top of the organization.

Transforming your STEM Career Through Leadership and InnovationThis book, published by Elsevier's Academic Press in 2013, is designed to be used by individuals, organizations or as part of the academic curriculum.

Leadership, leaders, and leadership opportunities, both formal and informal, exist at every level of the organization. The larger the organization, the more formal leadership roles it is likely to have in order to address the needs at varying levels and functions of the organization; however, in smaller organizations there may actually be more opportunity to experience various types of leadership requirements.

Myth #5: The leader controls, directs, prods and manipulates.

This is perhaps the most damaging myth of all. Leadership is not about the exercise of power itself or a demonstration of individual power; rather it is the empowerment of others. Leaders are able to translate intentions and visions into reality by aligning the energies in the organization behind an attractive goal. Leaders lead by inspiring rather than insisting, and by encouraging the team to use their own initiative and experiences toward the mission.

Myth #6: How you behave outside of work and online does not affect your ability to lead.

Character is not circumstantial and integrity is not issue based. Whoever you are as a person will be reflected in your professional and personal life, thus your behavior outside of work absolutely affects your success as a leader.

Myth #7: Leaders have all the answers.

The best leaders I know surround themselves with bright people and seek input in areas where they need expertise, fully recognizing there are limits. Great leaders are eager to gain input and are not afraid to admit when they do not know something.

Myth #8: Your team is there to serve you.

As a leader, you and the team are to serve the “vision” as it relates to the good of the organization, constituents, shareholders, and all stakeholders. The best leaders set the example with selfless leadership demonstrated though a servant attitude, thinking about the vision first, the team second, stakeholders third, and finally themselves. This is servant leadership.

comments powered by Disqus

1 Archived Comment

rogelio obillo June 13, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I would great to acquire knowledge i have read in the 8 myth paragrah, that's as excellent quutes, we had had read. I congratulate MS Pamela Mc Cauley Bush PHD. I,m proudly to salute you are leadership career & innovation,researcher's.