Are leaders born or made?
Are some people “born leaders”, while others are not? Is leadership something that can be learned?
If we look at leadership like a chemistry experiment, what are the properties and qualities that must interact combine and change in order for true leadership to be exhibited?
My periodic table for leadership includes:
In the words of Lao Tzu, “let the people think they came to that conclusion themselves.” If someone demands the spotlight, they will most certainly get it. But I believe that leading with quiet dignity and humility, and allowing others to shine, is a key to leadership. I’ve often said, when I’ve spearheaded a program or project, I hope ten people want my “job” and no one remembers my name when I’m gone. My role is to become dispensable, not indispensable. Hurts like hades sometimes, but it means you’ve left a system, process or product in place that has longevity beyond you and your involvement.
Lighting the candle within
Those who know me know that one of my taglines is: “People are candles to be lit, not vessels to be filled.” This comes from my Olympic coaching days, when I saw the potential and passion of my athletes, sometimes more so than they saw in themselves. My role as a coach and leader is to fan the flames and spark the ignition in others. We’re not responsible for others’ successes: people do that for themselves. But we can catalyze, support, nurture, guide, inform, educate and cheerlead them on their journey.
And by that I mean listen more than we speak. We were given two ears and one mouth to listen twice as much as we speak. And it’s vital to listen with the intention of understanding, not responding.
Love oneself and love the people you work and interact with. Smile. Walk with a pep in your step and a positive outlook on life. For every problem there is more than one solution, and the person who loves life will strive always to find a way…or ways. Self-care and self-love are so important to leadership, and I don’t mean in an egocentric, ego-driven, vain way. I believe if you don’t love yourself, you cannot possibly be the best you can be: for yourself and for others.
Mistakes are teachers
but make that particular mistake only once. We learn far more from our mistakes than from the things we do correctly. A good leader encourages mistakes, but a particular mistake should not be repeated. If it is, it means that no learning occurred. A leader helps someone to see the lesson in the error, and does not use the mistake as a faultfinding, blame-gaming opportunity to berate another.
Tells others what needs to be done, not how to do it
A good leader does not micromanage. Otherwise, why have someone else do the job? I believe a leader’s role is to empower, support and encourage others to find the ways and means to achieve a goal or outcome. Allow them to find the path(s) to results. I ascribe to the “tell me what you want done, and then let me do it” school of thought.
Open-mindedness, lifelong learning, and willingness to grow, change and innovate
No one on the planet has it “all figured out”. And even when we think we might, there is always room for Kaizen: the relentless pursuit of finding a better way. I believe strong leaders are students of life, always seeking, searching, pursuing and learning new things and new ways. Learning from others. Learning from themselves. And I’ll end with…Having fun, enjoying life and being mindful – There is only this moment and then poof!…it’s gone. Life’s too short to drink bad wine. Life’s too short not to be enjoyed. Enjoy