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Leadership Apocalypse: 8 Outdated Leadership Myths that Just Won’t Die

In 2023, Alexander Haslam, Mats Alvesson, and Stephen Reicher published an article that caused quite a stir: Zombie leadership: Dead ideas that still walk among us (2023). They define zombie leadership as a set of outdated beliefs that have no evidence to support them. These myths paint a picture of leadership as a lonely hero at the top, barking orders and expecting blind obedience. Zombie leadership is all about clinging to outdated ideas about leadership that stifle creativity, kill morale, and ultimately hold your team back.

But fear not! Here at Torch, we’re all about slaying these leadership zombies and building thriving, engaged workplaces. Let’s dive deep into the myths that keep these zombies shambling around, and explore how to redefine leadership for a more collaborative and successful future.

The Zombie Apocalypse: Myths that Kill Great Leadership

Let’s bust some of these myths wide open:

Myth #1: Leadership is a Solo Act

Nope! Leadership is a team sport. A good leader inspires, motivates, and amplifies the contributions of everyone around them. It’s about creating an environment where everyone feels valued, empowered, and able to contribute their unique skills.

Myth #2: There’s a “Great Leader” Checklist

This one is a real killer. There’s no magic formula or one-size-fits-all personality for a great leader. Effective leadership depends on the specific context, follower needs, and shared goals of the group. The best leader for a high-pressure startup might not be the best fit for a collaborative non-profit organization.

Myth #3: Leaders Do, Followers Follow

This is a recipe for a zombie apocalypse (or at least a high turnover rate!). True leadership is about inspiring action, not forcing it. The best leaders create a sense of shared purpose and empower their teams to take ownership of their work.

Myth #4: Leadership is Obvious

Ever heard someone say, “I know a great leader when I see one”? Well, this myth ignores the fact that perceptions of leadership are subjective. What makes one person a hero to some, might be a tyrant to others.

Myth #5: One Type of Leadership Fits All

Leadership looks different on everyone and no two leadership styles are exactly alike. Effective leadership is adaptable. The best leaders can adjust their approach based on the situation and the needs of their team.

Myth #6: Leadership is for the Chosen Few

This myth creates a huge hierarchy and breeds resentment. Leadership potential exists in everyone! The best leaders recognize and nurture the leadership skills of their team members, fostering a collaborative environment where everyone can contribute.

Myth #7: Leadership is Always Good

Let’s be honest, even the best leaders can mess up. Leadership can be misused, leading to manipulation, exploitation, or unethical behavior.

Myth #8: We Need Leaders to Function

This myth underestimates the power of collective action. Groups can be highly effective without a formal leader in place. Shared goals, professionalism, and a strong sense of team spirit can all drive success without a leader’s input.

Why Zombie Leadership Matters (and How It Hurts Your Business)

These outdated myths about leadership create their own, negative ripple effect, harming both employees and organizations. Here’s why it’s important to slay the zombie leadership beast:

  • Reinforced inequality: By focusing on leaders and downplaying leadership from others, it creates a system where only a select few are recognized and rewarded, while the potential of the majority is ignored.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: If we believe that leadership is limited to certain people, it discourages others from stepping up. This ultimately reinforces the myth that leadership comes only from the “chosen few.”
  • Limited Options: By focusing only on traditional leadership styles, we miss out on the possibility of effective leadership emerging from anywhere within a group

The Cure for the Zombie Apocalypse: Redefining Leadership

So, how do we slay the zombie leadership hordes and build a more engaged and successful workplace? Here are some battle tactics:


Expose the Threat: Let’s talk openly about the dangers of zombie leadership and its negative impact on teams and organizations. Read blogs like this one and share with your friends and colleagues!

Redefine Leadership: Move away from the lone hero model and embrace leadership as a collaborative process. Seek to provide more opportunities for leadership development across all leaders at your organization.

Develop new leadership practices: Leaders need relational skills that encourage employee participation to build shared success. Consider ways you can build a coaching culture or upskill leaders to have the leadership skills they need regardless of their job role.


Want help dispelling these leadership myths at your organization? Let us know-request a demo to discuss our zombie-killing strategies!