Born to manage, learn to lead.
”The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born”. Edward de Bono
Born to manage
We have a saying in our organisation, Born to manage, learn to lead. This came about due to the fact is that no-one is, or ever will be, born the perfect leader. Every person is born with traits that may one day help them to be an excellent leader. Unfortunately, each of us is born with traits that may get in the way as well! Learning to be a leader is all about implementing deliberate strategies to develop the skills and traits of a leader. As emerging leaders go along their journey they seek out potential leaders they respect or aspire to be and learn from them about how to handle situations and become quality leaders. They use feedback they receive from those around them, and they put it to good use.
Simon Thiessen, CEO of our organisation will always say when we have a situation that may not have gone to plan we must ask ourselves first and foremost “What failure of leadership led to this”. It is one of the most influential things I have learnt from him, and something I always do as a leader. We do this by when a situation arises where something appears to have failed, or the desired outcome has not been achieved, – simply Pause or Stop. Before asking any questions to anyone else, or laying blame where we think the process may have failed we must use the method of self-reflection to see what we could have done better as leaders in the situation. Ask yourself “what failure in my leadership led to this,or contributed to this? What could I have done better in my role leading this team / person / project?”
Self-reflection as a leader is where we learn most of what makes us better leaders. We take situations that others see as possible “failures” and we see them as potential to take a bad situation and create something good out of it, what can we learn from this even when we didn’t achieve the desired outcome. When we implement this process of self reflection we either win or we learn.
Learn to lead
The term “natural born leader” is a dangerous one as it disempowers people’s self-belief that they are not the right person for the role. The opposite, it can falsely empower others to believe because they are a certain age, experience, education, they have worked somewhere for a certain period of time – they are entitled to the role and entitled to be a leader.
People may experience within an organisation, someone promoted due to the longest and strongest:
Longest: “Their turn” because they have been their the longest, done the role below or similar the longest
Strongest: being good at the task with the assumption they are ready for the task.
There is no leadership guarantee when either of these reasons are the basis for promotion into a leadership role. Often when this happens we see these people get thrown in the deep end, and they flounder because suddenly they are needing to deal with all these people issues and there is no leadership knowledge.
Rather than throwing people in the deep end and hoping they swim, we need to start at the shallow end, encourage them to swim towards the deep end while building up their leadership skill and capability. In this process they learn to lead. This is why we often like to encourage organisations to encourage team members to adopt leadership behaviours before they are in a leadership role. Don’t leave it until they are in the deep end floundering to teach them leadership skills.
The best leaders work out what works, the balance and run with it – and they identify what they do that reduces their effectiveness, and they learn better options.
The ‘natural born leader’ who takes no responsibility for developing themselves can be a disaster; the unlikely or accidental leader, who diligently learns the art of leadership, can make a profound difference to the people they lead.
“Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal” – Vince Lombardi, US football coach
The myth that all successful leaders are…
We often hear people say “All successful leaders are….. “….. and the problem with that phrase “all successful leaders are” is that it implies that leaders have specific innate characteristics that set them apart from other people. This phrase reinforces the myth that leaders are born rather than made – and this is the most dangerous belief any leader, or prospective leader, can have.
- Some people feel as though they will never be a leader because they were not born with the specific qualities and characteristics that makes them a leader
- Some leaders hide behind this belief – in their minds they are a natural born leader and therefore don’t need to adapt and learn to improve their leadership.
Find out what good leaders do, and do more of that
If you want to be a great leader, find out what other great leaders do, and do more of those actions. Its all about what you do – we must not buy into the message that leadership is an entitlement. Have a goal to show up as a leader every day and just give to your people. Listen (really listen to them). Spend five minutes getting to know something about someone you didn’t already know. Don’t shy away from the difficult conversation you don’t want to have, lead with courage and empathy and see how much you can grow from situations like this.
In our next blog post Doing the right things or doing things right, explores what leaders do and what we as leaders wanting to put more of a leadership layer over our everyday behaviours can do more of to create these leadership habits.
The buy in you must have is “I can be a leader, and my pathway to learn is knowing the skills and behaviours and doing them consistently” and the beauty is this journey is available to everybody.
So my challenge to you is to think back to a time where something may not have gone to plan or you may not have received the outcome you desired. It may have been a project at work, or the performance of a team you are apart of, or something in your personal life. Thinking of the statement we mentioned earlier in this post “What failure of leadership led to this” I want you to reflect on your role in the outcome, and perhaps an aspect that you could take responsibility for. What will you do better the next time a situation like this arises? What have you learnt from this self reflection process?
These are all part of the leadership lessons we must all take on our journey to becoming authentic leaders.
Want to check out how Authentic your organisation is? Take our free online Authentimeter Assessment tool here