The Five Delusions Of Leadership

By Brent Filson - 2/2011

Our lives are beset by illusions and delusions. Both involve the processes of the mind but in different ways.

An illusion is a perceptual disturbance usually involving physical objects. For instance, when we see the moon rising above the horizon, it seems to be much larger than the moon that is risen high in the sky. That’s an illusion scientists have never been able to adequately explain.

A delusion, on the other hand, is a belief disturbance. For instance, the belief that one’s mind is being read by machines run by government agents is a delusion.

Many otherwise rational and sane leaders are afflicted by delusions. A deluded leader cannot achieve the full depth and range of potential results.

Here are five delusions commonly suffered by leaders. Do they apply to your leadership?

1) The Delusion Of The Order. When leaders need to have people take action, to go from point A to point B, for instance, many have a tendency to think that the best way to make it happen is to say, "Go from A to B."

However, that thinking is based on a delusion, the delusion that the best and quickest way to get people to do a task is to tell them to do it.

In reality, the best way to get people to do a task is to have them tell themselves to do it.

That means going to the trouble of understanding the needs of the people so you can set in motion processes that have them become motivated to choose to go from A. To B.

2) The Delusion Of Correspondence. This is the mistaken belief of the leaders that their own thoughts and feelings correspond to the thoughts and feelings of the people they lead. The truth is, the thoughts and feelings of the leader and those of the people are often at crossed purposes. For instance, leaders often exhort workers to achieve increases in productivity. The leaders may be convinced they are engaged in positive communication when in truth that communication is quite negative. More often than not, workers are not thinking "productivity" but "more work for me!"

Leaders afflicted by this delusion can’t achieve the full range of results they are capable of achieving because they’re usually unable to win the hearts of the people.

3) The Delusion of Continuing Motivation. Many leaders think that because the people indicate they agree with them that such agreement will stick. Yet often people’s agreement stops at the exit door. When they leave the leaders’ presence, they take action showing they don’t agree at all. In other words, they say YES to the leaders but do NO when by themselves.

4) The Doing/Leading Delusion. Leaders often get people to move by telling them to do tasks. But there’s really a better way to get results. Instead of telling people to do a task, they should have them want to take LEADERSHIP of that task. Taking leadership of a task is a far more effective means of accomplishing it.

5) The Delusion Of Projection. This is similar to the Delusion of Correspondence but with an important twist linked to the ego of the leader. Often, when leaders interact with the people, those leaders automatically think the people are interested in what they say and do simply because they’re leaders and they’re saying and doing it. This ego-inflation prevents them understanding what the people really think of them. And when leaders ignore the people’s reality, their real thoughts, they diminish their results-producing abilities.


2/2011© The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. – Celebrating 25 years of helping leaders of top companies worldwide achieve outstanding results every day. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get his FREE report "7 Steps To Leadership Mastery"