12 Fallacies Regarding Leadership


In previous contributions I have addressed ideas relating to spiritual leadership. From the perspective of this approach to leadership, some common ideas and sayings are actually false.

Here are 12…

1) Leaders Empower Others

The idea that leaders empower others is well-intentioned but it is a fallacy. Other people already have tremendous power, leaders simply free them to use the power and skills they already have. So, the leader focuses not on empowerment if that implies giving away power, but liberation.

As John Gardner pointed out:

“Leaders are almost never as much in charge as they are pictured to be, followers almost never as submissive as one might imagine.” That influence and pressure flow both ways is not a recent discovery.

2) Leaders Lead Others

Likewise the frequently stated concept that the task of the leader is to lead others is now simply old fashioned. The leader recognizes that the self-leadership of employees is the organization’s greatest untapped natural resource.

So, he or she does not lead directly but facilitates self-leadership in others. Let people lead themselves, in most cases they do not need you.

3) Not Tolerating Dissent

A frequently heard fallacy is that an organization cannot tolerate dissent. An organization needs the energizing value of dissent. It is silence, passivity and apathy that are bad. We need active teams with critical thinking and collaborative skills.

The leader does not encourage silent support but discussion and disagreement.

4) Management Sustaining Leadership

Some individuals who are inexperienced in organizational development think that management skills will sustain leadership. This is not so! Management obsolescence is now a given.

Managers rapidly become obsolete as their established methods grow old.

What Dr. Demming pointed out a long time ago is still true that management causes 85% of all problems in an organization. The spiritual leader appreciates that management leads to compliance, whereas leadership leads to shared values in a common vision.

5) Learning Collaboration

Many immature leaders mistakenly think that an individual can learn collaboration. It is not that simple. You must first unlearn non-collaboration before collaboration can begin.

This is the pain of conversion.

So, for the spiritual leader there can be no collaborative methods on top of an uncollaborative attitude or structure.

6) Leaders as Separate

In times when people saw leadership as genetic and embodied in the great person theory, they felt that the leader stands apart from the organization. Clearly that is no longer the case.

The leader must be a part of the organization and not apart from it.

Hierarchy is still the dominant model of organizational behavior and structure. Often when people talk about collaboration, they mean a collaborative approach within a hierarchical structure.

The word “hierarchy” means sacred and gives the manager the status of high priest.

This is a dysfunctional form of leadership today.

So, the spiritual leader is not apart from but an integral part of the institution.

7) Top as Leader?

An interesting fallacy is that if you are on top, you are the leader. No! Spiritual leaders surface anywhere in the organization, and it has nothing to do with superior position.

Leadership is not a position, or job, or place in the structure, it is a process and commitment, an attitude to life.

The spiritual leader knows that no position gives leadership, only a single-minded commitment to grow does.

8) Controlling Development

Leaders must control the organization’s development. An astounding fallacy! “Leaders know that the more they control others, the less likely it is that people will excel. Leaders do not control. They enable others to act” (Kounzes and Posner).

Control guarantees the diminishment of excellence.

A great leader is one who senses the future mission and direction in the expressions of followers. So, no control, but yes for guided freedom.

9) Power is Limited

In times of reaction to more participative forms of government it is still heard that power is limited. Power can be shared, it is expandable. Remember that powerlessness corrupts and absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely and produces the loss of commitment and common vision.

The spiritual leader does not limit power but shares it, giving others control and power over their own lives.

10) Leading the Organization

A common fallacy is that top people in a hierarchy lead their organizations. The leader does not lead the organization but its people, making a substantial difference to their lives and they will make a substantial difference to the organization.

The leader does not focus on the organization but on its people.

11) Charismatic Leadership

Now and again we hear that society today needs some charismatic leaders. No! I think not. Charismatic leaders are generally autocratic, presuming they have the vision while their followers are empty and passive.

This is not the approach of a spiritual leader.

Rather, charisma is not found in the lonely individual but in a developing group.

12) Leadership Longevity

Coming out of old notions of leadership is yet another fallacy: once a leader always a leader. No! Many of yesterday’s leaders with all their gifts and virtue intact are simply obstacles in today’s institutions.

The spiritual leader is always a restless learner.


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Dr. Leonard Doohand
Dr. Leonard Doohan
  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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8 responses to “12 Fallacies Regarding Leadership

  1. Fallacies are valuable to understand and I support that path of learning. What we could also do is understand what actually works. We might discover that there is no one size that fits all. That leadership as a vocation is indeed a spiritual journey and a serving journey. Able to influence, inspire, persuade,help and correct with unconditional respect, as well as make hard decsions that are for a higher good of the many – there’s the challenge.


  2. Fallacies are worth understanding. Understanding what actually works is as valuable. Could we not learn how to influence, inspire, persuade, help and correct with unconditional respect? Leadership as a vocation is a spiritual commitment and a serving function. When we forget our spirit we are operating from ego – that’s where leadership issues originate. Evidence shows that inclusive planning leads to better execution. For a leader to be inclusive she/he must swallow ego. The axiom of “knowledge is power” is as fallacial as the 12 leadership myths described above. What is real power is shared knowledge. I like your work.


    • David: Many thanks for your additional comments and refocusing. I appreciate what you said. I think we share a lot of similar components of the vision of leadership. Thank you. Leonard


  3. Dr. Doohan, I very much enjoyed your blog post. I believe in any truly integral model of leadership, the spiritual domain plays a large role in making it possible for us to bring our highest self to our work. Your 12 fallacies resonate strongly and I think obsolescence is an overlooked dynamic that helps supports a pattern of denial and self deception within the leadership community. Thank you for the learnings and best wishes… Doug


    • Many thanks to you also Doug. I think you are absolutely right in focusing on integral models of leadership–skills and behaviors alone are nolonger worth much. Your expression on the primacy of the spiritual domain is essential if we are to move from the old forms of yesterday’s leadership to what will be needed tomorrow. What got us here will not get us there. Thank you. Leonard


  4. This is a great article with so many helpful tips! Like many, I found myself out of a job and with the job market the way that it is, I’m trying everything I can to make myself more desirable to potential employers. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on ways to be more successful and I just finished a book called “How to Avoid the Common Failure” by Michael Horton. You can find out more on his website http://www.hortonadvantedge.com and you can pick up the book at http://www.gettothepointbooks.com. I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s been in or is currently in a similar situation! I’ve been on both sides of a leadership position; being led and leading. In my opinion, people are much more driven and successful when they get to make decisions for themselves instead of constantly being micromanaged. I know alone, these tips will definitely help me, but I’m interested in hearing from others about their success stories, or other books/articles they’ve read to help them achieve their goals.


  5. Pingback: #TrendingThursday – Week 13 | The Daniels Daily Reader·

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