I’ve been delivering leadership programs for … well, many years.
In nearly every workshop I deliver, I’ll have at least one person who believes that “Leaders are born that way” Or “You have to be born with leadership skills”.
Let me share something personal with you. I wasn’t born with these skills, traits, characteristics, ‘leadership DNA’ or whatever you want to call whatever leaders are supposed to be born with.
Probably the person who knew me best as I was growing up was my Mum. My Mum couldn’t believe what I was doing, career-wise. The words she said which I – and my sister – clearly remember were “I can’t believe he’s doing this, he was such a shy boy.”
And yet this ‘shy’ boy at the age of 28 in the corporate world was a leader who had 4 direct reports and a total of 60 and up to 80 others at times who were in the team.
I simply ‘learned’ the skills required. I was fortunate to work for 17 years with a managing director – and wonderful leader – who I learned much from.
As Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner say in ‘The Leadership Challenge’, “Leadership is an observable and learnable set of skills and abilities.”
So I learned – and I continue to learn. You see, I wanted to be a leader. I chose to learn and become a leader. If I had chosen to become an airline pilot or accountant – or pianist or mountain climber – I could have chosen that path and learned the skills required.
But those – and many other skilled occupations and activities – were not choices I made. I knew that as a leader I could, to use a cliché, ‘make a difference’. That difference would be in the lives of others as well as in my life.
By saying that “You’re born with leadership skills is really an excuse for not learning. Our path in life, and the successes we achieve are so often about the choices we make – and the skills we learn.
If you make the choice, if you learn the skills required, if you demonstrate these skills with consistency and frequency, and learn on an ongoing basis, you can become an exemplary leader.
And you’ll be one like me and many, many thousands of others who disprove that old myth about leaders being ‘born that way’.
Yes, leaders are born – and so are managers….accountants ….and …