During a workshop today the subject of leadership came up.
Delivering workshops is pretty much my most favourite (work-related) activity because I learn so much from participants and the group I was with was no exception.
Specifically we discussed two questions: The first was ‘what are the characteristics of a good leader?’, and the second was ‘are people born leaders or can leadership be learned?’.
My answer to the first question was easy: whether or not you are a good leader will depend upon the definition of leadership that your team has. It’s all very well talking about a leader motivating and inspiring their staff, but if your staff don’t want to be motivated and inspired, in their eyes you’ll be nothing more than a coordinator who irritates. It’s all about the needs of those being lead.
The answer to the second question produced considerably more discussion, and it’s a subject that many have already written about without any definitive conclusion.
A bit of market research with the man on the couch at home this evening only served to highlight the opposing opinions on what it takes to be a leader.
Well I’m going to make a clear statement and say that leadership can be learned, and here’s why:
The ‘Brain Cell’ Argument
When we are born we have around 100 billion brain cells, giving us incredible potential. There is much research on how quickly our brain cells begin to die, and whether we continue to produce new brain cells during our lives, but we all arrive in this world with a similar capacity to develop into anything we want to be.
The ‘Upbringing’ Argument
The values and beliefs of your family have a massive influence on what you do with your life. For example, my Grandfather was convinced I would never enjoy success and wealth because I chose to not go to college when I was 16. Free education was a privilege that had to be enjoyed and respected.
For a while he had me pretty scared about my future, until I landed a job with a record company and became their youngest and first, foreign international promotion manager. I have never looked back, and although there were times when my future was uncertain, I have always been clear that it's up to me to take action to get to where I want to be.
Almost everything you do today is a habit based upon your experience of growing up in your family environment.
You get up, you have a shower, you get dressed and have breakfast, you go to work or take your children to school, you have a meeting, you have a coffee with colleagues, you write a report, you have another meeting, you go home, you have dinner, you watch TV or go out with friends, you go to bed, and then it starts all over again.
Your habits make neural pathways in your brain that become wider and stronger the longer you exercise your habit.
Your habits are your friends.
Anything that requires you to think or to do things differently can be hard work, so it’s much easier to stay in your comfort zone where you know what’s what. And so you tell yourself that you could never be a leader.
But be clear that it is your choice, and the power to choose which direction you take is always yours.
The ‘Expertise’ Argument
As someone who did their MBA in later years (if you follow my blogs you’ll know by now that I despised school), although the study of management theories is interesting, the only way you can ever learn how to lead people is to work with people. Leadership training undoubtedly provides some value, but if you don’t take action on what you’ve learned, it is useless.
If you want to be, YOU can be a leader, or indeed anything else. There are no laws stating that you are unfit to be a leader. It’s your choice. And if you’re afraid about making the shift towards leadership, acknowledge your fear and then let it go, because unless you’re standing a couple of feet away from a lion or a bear, fear is a false emotion, with no evidence to back it up.
My goal is to create excellence in the workplace, and that means helping you to explore your potential and to create a reality that you want. If you would like to receive updates and additional inspiration, simply sign up to my mailing list here: Feelgood Coaching and Consulting Mailing List.