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March 01, 2021

Smash to smithereens: 7 Leadership Myths That Are Holding You Back

Smash to smithereens: 7 Leadership Myths That Are Holding You Back

by PropNex CEO Ismail Gafoor


Credit: Jehyun Sung

Let's go back in time to when you were still a student sitting in a classroom. Your teacher stood in front of the class and asked this question, "How many of you think you are a leader?"

Will you raise up your hand?

Do you also see many in the class raising up their hands?

Even from a very young age, we have an idea and perception of what a leader should be like.

As we grow older and become exposed to new role models, new stories and new cultures, these ideas grow with us and eventually evolve into our personal belief system.

But what if these ideas and perceptions do not actually serve you or make you a better person?

What if instead, these belief systems are preventing you from discovering a greater purpose, or causing you to miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity?

What if there are false truths and self-limiting beliefs that are causing you to settle for something less than what you can be?

Indeed, leadership myths are that quiet, persistent force that permeates our culture and sinisterly influence how we conduct ourselves in schools, in our workplaces and beyond.

It is also a subject that PropNex CEO Ismail Gafoor is deeply passionate about.

We sit with him this afternoon as he shares with us the 7 Leadership Myths That Are Holding You Back and smashes to smithereens these false truths and limiting beliefs.

Leadership Myth 1: Leaders are born, not made


Credit: Markus Spiske

This is one of leadership's greatest myths and you will be surprised to find out that there is just a tiny weeny bit of truth in it.

Character traits like introversion/extroversion, need for belonging, resiliency, curiosity, impulsiveness and positivity are all likely to be innate personality traits and have strong links to your genetic make-up.

However and more importantly, various research have shown that leadership is at most one-third born and two-thirds made.

Some people have in-born characteristics (i.e. intelligence, empathy) that are innate but for the most part, leadership is observed, learnt and replicated.

Leadership Myth 2: Leaders must be charismatic and extroverted


Credit: Amariei Mihai

"I'm not a charismatic person. I'm actually introverted and I don't like to talk to people. In fact, if you give me a choice, I just like to do my work my own way, and in a quiet way". Said Mr Ismail.

It is easy to observe personalities like Donald Trump, Elon Musk and Bono and assume that leaders have to be charismatic.

It would also be a grave mistake if the lack of these characteristics cause you to give up on trying to be a leader altogether.

Recounting the legacy of Mr Akio Morita, founder of Sony who started the company in a small rented room. Mr Morita was not charismatic and also introverted but has an incredible clarity of mind.

He was very clear that he was going to build a company with innovation and creation as it's biggest core value.

Leadership Myth 3: Successful leaders play it safe


Credit: Dan Meyers

Success people always play by the book. They always want to be popular. They cannot afford to make mistakes.

This is one of the toxic leadership myths that needs to be broken as it is causing people to be afraid of failures.

When Jack Ma founded Alibaba in 1999, he exhorted employees to "think big" and "work for their dreams!". Today, Alibaba is bigger than Amazon and eBay combined.

Aung San Suu Kyi gave up freedom and a good life to protest military rule in Burma.

These are all bold decisions. Successful people are not afraid to make bold decisions because they are guided by a set of core values that are fundamental to their very being.

Leadership Myth 4: Successful leaders share specific core values


Credit: Linda Trochez

The fact is, each of us are unique in our own ways and while successful leaders may share specific core values, there is no one size fit all in leadership.

If you spend your time and effort trying to emulate these specific core values, you will find yourself having to constantly change them every time your leadership "model" changes.

What is most important is to be yourself and be who you are. Dig deep! What are your strengths and core values? Work on them. Bring these core values to life, make decisions and exert your influences based on these core values.

Leadership Myth 5: Visionary leaders are fun to work with

If a leader is very good, he must be fun to work with. Popularity is very important to leaders. Leaders must be well-liked by everyone.

These are all faulty assumptions about leadership.

Depth, Discipline and Firmness are traits of a good leader. Not to say that a good leader cannot be fun to work with but being fun should not the primary driver for a good leader.

Above all, a visionary leader should know what the stakes are. They are responsible for the livelihood of the people under them. Being fun and being popular is not and should not be the primary priority for a good leader.

Leadership Myth 6: Visionary leaders make their best moves by brilliant and complex planning


Credit: Joshua Ness

"Mr Ismail, were you certain or were aware or was it your dream to build Singapore's largest real estate company when you entered the real estate industry?"

"The truth of the matter is no. I will attest to it that I am not the most brilliant person and I am not one who have the most complex or the most detailed person but what I did here is this... visionary leaders are leaders that take that little steps everyday, incremental improvement and adding value to everything that they do, that they develop and make it bigger." Mr Ismail said.

Indeed, there is no grand plan or mastermind behind the rise of PropNex.

It is the little steps, each and every day. Embracing the philosophy of incremental improvements and the mindset to add value to everything that is PropNex's bread and butter.

Leadership Myth 7: Successful leaders focus on beating others to prove their ability


Credit: Pepe Reyes

You might have heard the legendary stories of the obsessively competitive nature of athletes like Micheal Jordan and Kobe Bryant but do not mistake their compulsive need to win as focusing on beating others to prove their ability.

Successful leaders focus not on others but on themselves.

They do not look outwards, they look inwards. These athletes are in fact in competition to be the greatest version of themselves.

Successful leaders do not see their competition as their enemies. They see them as friends and as allies.

Being able to adopt this perspective also comes with it, a sense of maturity, a greatness and lightness of heart.

And there you have it, the 7 Leadership Myths That Are Holding You Back that I hope by now have been shattered and smashed to bits by Ismail's sharing.

If you have only one takeaway today, it should be that you are a leader and you can do anything that you set your mind to.

May you no longer be held back by false truths and limiting beliefs in 2021.

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