When we see a talented carpenter or engineer at work, we imagine that we can see what they do, so therefore what they do must be something that can be learned.
Since we have to teach people technical skills, we often presume that it's learning those skills that make someone an engineer. If you've ever met a really talented engineer, you'll know that they think in a fundamentally different way to someone who has only the technical knowledge required for the job.
Therefore, we presume that they have some intangible quality that can't be categorised and so can't be learned. If this is the case, then where do the necessary skills come from? Leaders must just be born that way. Perhaps leadership is a genetic quality or maybe it's astrological? Perhaps it's a gift?
The first thing that we can say about leadership is that we all have a unique model of it in our heads. You know when you are inspired by a strong or charismatic leader. You also know when you are being managed by someone who should really be leading instead. You already know the difference ... and the difference does not lie in those people, it is inside your head. Your existing model of leadership is undoubtedly the best starting point for you to develop your own leadership qualities.
The second thing we can say about leadership is that we all have the same physical equipment for detecting the presence of an outstanding leader - our eyes and ears! Therefore, the qualities of leadership must be something that we can see and hear and therefore reproduce ourselves.
We could spend time discussing what these behavioural qualities are, or what training courses you could go on to learn about them, but the reality is that you already know what they are, for you.
Leaders do not mould themselves on someone else's theoretical model, and my advice to you is to avoid academic leadership models. The first person you need to lead is yourself, and I could even say that powerful leaders only lead themselves. Often, when they look behind them, they are quite surprised to see how many followers they have.
A leader's attention does not rest on the people who follow! A leader's attention is only on the future, or at least their vision of the future, which is so strong and compelling that other people find themselves drawn into it.
If we were to spend time looking at what exceptional leaders do that's different to what other people do, we would find that there are a handful of differences that anyone can adopt in order to develop their leadership potential.
They tend not to ask for opinions or feedback, and they don't tend to worry about things not turning out the way they hope. You can appreciate that this isn't always a helpful attitude, but remember that a person or organisation that commits to a course of action is often more successful than the one that spends time trying to decide on a course of action.
They share their vision of the future in a way that inspires others to take action. They do not tell other people what to do. In a way, the leader recognises how everyone in the team contributes to the vision and then trusts them to do that. The leader is only interested in results, not process.
They look to the future and in doing so are able to make difficult decisions more easily than other people. In fact, the decisions are just as hard for them as for anyone else, they just get on with their lives once the decision is made rather than worrying about whether the decision was right or wrong. They recognise that being decisive is a more important quality than being right.
So, are leaders born or bred? Well, in a way, the answer is both. Natural leaders do not go on leadership development training courses. During their lives, they have learned valuable lessons that allow them to excel when placed in a leadership position.
On the other hand, many people who find themselves placed in a leadership position are easily able to develop their natural skills with the right coaching. In practical terms, some leaders are born, and some are bred, and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in their performance.
So, it's not important for anyone to worry if they will develop their leadership skills. Instead, think about how you develop those skills. First, start with what you believe to be the model of excellence in leadership. Don't concern yourself with what the experts say - even this one! Instead, do what works for you.
If you're interested in training that sticks for your brand, do call me on 01908 511 062 or leave a comment below and let's see how I can help you.