Before we start, we need to think about the type of skills we inherit when starting out in life. Research tells us we are born with a small number that help us survive and grow into, hopefully, decent human beings.
These abilities are keeping ourselves safe (pretty important), facial expression, language, negotiation (anyone who has ever tried to bargain with a 3 year, will know those skills cannot be learnt!) and the art of imagination.
Based on this list, no-one is born a leader and thus; all leaders must be made.
This is generally accepted to be true, so if it isn’t nature, it must be nurture. Or could it be something else, such as circumstance and context. Before running down this path, it useful to be clear what do we actually mean by leadership.
What defines leadership?
The unhelpful response is that it can mean different things to different people. The most common answer could be described as one person leading a group of people towards a particular objective.
But leadership must be wider than that. Isn’t it about how you lead your life, manage your family, your relationships and your job? Consequently we are all leaders in some shape or form.
Leadership also means empowering others to become effective leaders as well. That’s why many great leaders have remarkable mentors that have guided and shown them the way.
Learning to do
If the answer is YES to be able to learn to become a leader, does this mean it can be taught?
Well I don’t think it can, learning to be a leader is in the doing rather than the teaching. For those with the courage and commitment to being a leader, very little teaching is required. They learn by doing; through experience, not words
Can you imagine Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela or Sir (to ensure this blog remains current) Ben Stokes, ever attending a leadership seminar or browsing Amazon for the top 10 leadership books – I suspect not!
It is similar to many other learnt skills such as kicking a football, juggling or tying shoe laces, in that you have to be bold, take the first step and give it go in the real world. If you fail, then you fail but as long as you learn something invaluable about how to do it better, then it is a success.
Having greatness thrust upon you
However there are the circumstances when people find themselves as leaders – as Shakespeare put it “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”.
Consequently, some business owners find themselves reluctantly becoming leaders but step up through a sense of duty or obligation. These situations can help push and elevate people towards becoming good or even great leaders, however, some do wither and fail.
At Haines Watts, we find that every leader (and indeed everyone) needs to have both confidence and competence in equal measures in order to lead.
Interestingly, each one tends to pull the other quality through, although a leader with all confidence and no competence could be a recipe for disaster.