founder of naked leader

Leadership from a different perspective – born, or made?

Naked Leader Week – 237 (w/c Monday 10 December 2007)

Leaders Born and Not Made!

 “Yes, there’s one, and another…”

Many people believe that leaders are born, and not made. Presumably new born leaders behave in a different way from other babies. It is almost worth a trip to the maternity hospital to check this out!

In reality, this belief is more often than not an excuse, to justify a lack of leadership behaviour in themselves. Of course we can all learn to be leaders, we can change our beliefs, our behaviours and our personalities. If we could not, our attitudes would be the same when we are 20, 40 and 60.

There are no ‘born’ leaders, however we are all born with unique strengths that help us in our leadership journeys – they are within us, and with most people, they stay within. The notion that leaders are born, and others therefore will never be leaders, is illogical, depressing and seriously limiting to every human being. The idea suggests that the moment babies are born they either have the genetics to be a leader, or they do not. This argument would be fine if the definition of leadership, and leaders, had been constant for the past fifty years, but it is not. Indeed, more has been discovered about leadership and human behaviour in the last twenty years than in the previous thousand.

Furthermore, the “born” argument does not take into account the effect that experience and learning has on our personalities, behaviours and on our inner selves.

Leadership is a skill and a habit. Like most skills and habits, one that improves with practice. As we become more skilled – the habit takes over – we worry less about the mechanics of doing it and focus more on the outcomes to be achieved.

And so it is with personality, much of personality is a set of responses that have become habits. Often these were developed with little forethought or awareness in school or at home. Presented with a challenge we try a response, if it works we remember it and use it again. If it works often enough, we use it without too much thought and it becomes a habit. Take any set of habits, mix and stir, and we create our own unique approach to life.

But like any habit, we can choose to change. Much long-lasting negative behaviour can be altered.

Being human is wonderful. We can learn new ways, new skills, and ignore old habits. By taking the time to make better choices, these behaviours will become new habits.

One word of caution, many people will tell us that changing in this way is hard, requires struggle and is fraught with failure. We must be gentle with these people, reminding them that none of us are the same people we were last year and won’t be the same this time next year.

My genuine belief and advice is this – every individual, team and organisation, should strive to be all that they can be. To do this, you will have to be outstanding leaders, and provided you are ready for the challenge, you too can be all that you can be.

If you do believe leaders are born and cannot be made, then please, please believe you were born in the right part of the hospital…At a conference a few years ago someone took an extreme exception to my belief that leaders are made and not born. He was very aggressive in his questioning. I invited him to nominate any single person he knew, who he did not think was born a leader, and I would spend one day with that person. In the conference he refused, but afterwards e-mailed me to say the person he would like to nominate was himself! We had a wonderful, cutting-edge and breakthrough day together. Breakthrough for both of us. He has asked not to be named, and he still believes leaders are born and not made. The difference is, he now believes he is one of the lucky ones! By the way, that day was successful not because of any particular gifts that I have, rather because of the gifts he had.

With love to you all





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