This week, I address the most consistent question I have received over my 20 years of teaching leadership. This question is especially popular with young and emerging leaders.
Are Leaders Born Or Made?
My quick answer to this age-old question is YES.
Perhaps my answer is a bit biased, as I have been instructing leadership in some capacity for 20 years and if people were born leaders, I would have been wasting my breath all these years.
I believe every person is born with leadership qualities but the most effective leaders have been crafted through years of observing quality role models, experimenting, mentorship and constant personal development (courses, books, mentoring, etc).
If you are born with the capacity to produce offspring, you are born with leadership qualities. Those qualities may lay dormant for years or flourish as a child or young adult but they are there.
Not one outstanding leader would say they were born with their leadership abilities and that’s it. Sure, they may have been born with stronger leadership tendencies but however strong they were, they were raw. These effective leaders developed their skills over many years of emulating leadership practices they saw in others and through deliberate practice on their own, even if that practice meant they failed many times over while in leadership positions.
My mother always told me I gravitated to leadership situations as a kid, at first organizing street hockey and baseball games with the neighborhood kids. I agree somewhat but by no means was I the best or the most natural leader. Of the dozens of sports teams (soccer, basketball, volleyball, water polo, etc) I played on in my youth, I was never once chosen to be the captain or even the alternate captain. I never had the guts or interest to run for student council. Yet, I have created a career centred in leadership.
What’s Your Story?
My point is if you believe or have been told you are a “natural leader”, fantastic, but you still need to refine those qualities by constant personal growth and self-awareness. If you believe you were not born a natural leader, that’s totally fine. By no means should this hold you back from being the most outstanding leader you want to be if you are committed to a life of learning the craft.
Let’s face it, at some point in our life most of us are going to have it step up and lead. For the majority of the population, the most, raw and challenging form of leadership happens when you become a parent. At this point, you are thrust into a leadership position whether you like it or not. Then it’s up to you what you are going to do with position of privilege. Yes, that’s right, I believe every leadership position is a position of privilege, the privilege of having people needing or wanting to follow you.
Even if you never become a parent, there is a good chance you will be called on in a leadership capacity, either within your family, work, community or recreational pursuits. The good news is with commitment and mentoring anyone can become an excellent leader.
In the end, I believe what many Behavioural Theories believe, that people can become leaders through the process of teaching, learning and observation. Leadership is a set of skills that can be learned through training, perception, practice and experience over time.
Leadership learning is a lifetime activity!
Action: This week, seek out and book or make contact with quality leadership training and mentors to guide you on your journey through 2017.
If I can support you in any way on your leadership journey, please let me know.
Until next time… Embrace the Adventure
Shawn Stratton is an international leadership and team building consultant, professional speaker, bestselling author and Ironman competitor.
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