Dollars and sense: Busting the myths of business leadership

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2008

By BILL RUPP / Guest Columnist

Much of what you know about how decisions are made in the workplace may actually be off the mark.

This week, I would like to address leaders and decision making by examining a couple of the myths that generate and maintain tension in the workplace, reduce productivity and rob organizations of the opportunity to become great.

Myth 1 – The boss makes all the decisions.

In reality, the chief decision maker influences hundreds of smaller decisions made by associates who have bought into the leader’s vision, aligned with the leader’s thinking,

and then acted accordingly. This “buy-in” is an extension of a concept known as the “acceptance view of authority.”

Every employee, every day, makes a decision to support the direction and decisions of the leader – they accept the authority of the decision makers and perform to expectations.

The more a leader understands this concept, the more the leader will invest in an employee’s development by encouraging independent decision making.

It can be scary for the boss to give up his or her power, but through investment, trust and encouragement, employees will take on the mindset and character necessary to move the organization forward.

Myth 2 – Leaders must be elusive and larger-than-life and have “rock-star” personalities to be effective.

While there are some leaders who have these characteristics, those traits are not prerequisites to proficient leadership.

In the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, the author describes the personality types of the leaders of 11 companies identified as great. All 11 of those leaders have high levels of humility and will.

The attributes of these leaders, humility and dedication, are described by Collins as quiet, reserved and awkward in public settings.

Their styles are embedded in their characters. They love what they do and surround themselves with others who hold similar values. They move toward the right goals and are less worried about receiving the credit. They make leadership everybody’s business.

Eliminating these leadership myths will encourage a more productive and encouraging workplace.

And who doesn’t want that?

Dr. Bill Rupp is the dean of the Michael E. Stephens College of Business at the University of Montevallo. He can be reached by e-mail at