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Are Leaders Born Or Bred?

In a way, the answer is both ...

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For as long as leaders have led, we have wondered if their abilities are the result of mystical forces or if they represent a set of skills that can be learned ...

Are leaders born or bred? Don't concern yourself with what the experts say!

Are leaders born or bred? Don't concern yourself with what the experts say!

photo by brooke lark on unsplash

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.

"For leaders, artists or musicians, it's difficult to see what they do differently to the rest of us!"

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.

  • Firstly, leaders believe that what they are doing is right

    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.

  • Secondly, leaders can communicate

    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.

  • Thirdly, leaders do not dwell on the past

    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.

"Would you like to know more?"

If you'd like to learn more about leadership then talk to me at Dramatic Training Solutions about our training courses for your teams and learn all about it! Do give me a call on 01908 511 062 or click here to ping me an email and let's see how I can help you.

Until next time ...


More about Debra Stevens ...

I'm the founder of DTS, which was established in 1996. A highly successful experiential training company specialising in facilitating behavioural change in all aspects of dealings with people, whether in customer service, sales, management or with colleagues and teammates.

I've managed large contracts such as Pearson Education, Coca Cola, Penguin Books, Accenture, and Santander for over 21 years and have built up excellent relationships with key sponsors of all aspects of the businesses.

I'm a successful trainer, writer and speaker with nearly 30 years' experience of training people at all levels.


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