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Can Leadership Be Learned?


The classic debate of nature versus nurture applies just as much to leadership as it does to any other human trait. Are leaders born with a predestined ability to inspire and guide, or are they molded by their experiences? Common wisdom might have us believe that leadership is a role for the 'chosen ones', yet this ignores the transformative power of learning and development.

Let's debunk a myth right away: no one is born chairing board meetings or strategizing market expansions. The skills to lead effectively are often polished over time through experiences both in and out of the boardroom. The truth is, infants don’t lead armies or corporations, and the leaders of today didn’t start out that way either.

Research offers a nuanced perspective, suggesting that while certain traits associated with leadership can be observed early on, they are far from being the full story. Leadership is less about a sudden emergence of ability and more about the cultivation of various competencies over time. It's not an epiphany that strikes at a particular age, but a series of learnings and experiences that build the leader gradually.

Consider this: we might all grow taller from childhood to adulthood, but predicting exact adult height based on childhood data is imprecise. Similarly, while we can measure leadership-related traits in children, such as intelligence and empathy, these don't guarantee future leadership. They do, however, set a foundation that, when coupled with life experiences, can develop into effective leadership.

The predisposition to lead, amplified by early-life qualities, is a significant factor. Those with a knack for problem-solving or a drive for responsibility often seek out situations that naturally enhance their leadership abilities. It's a symbiotic relationship between a person's inherent traits and their pursuit of experiences that nurture those traits.

The world also needs followers as much as it needs leaders. Not everyone aspires to be at the helm, and that's not only acceptable but necessary for a functional society. Followership is as crucial as leadership, and understanding how to be a good follower is a skill that is undervalued in the current leadership-centric dialogue.

So, what about improving the skills of existing leaders? How can we ensure that leadership training is not only absorbed but integrated into their behavior? Studies show that coaching, combined with feedback and personality assessments, can significantly elevate a leader's effectiveness. The key lies in targeting the enhancement of knowledge and expertise, which are more straightforward to develop than intrinsic traits.

Interestingly, those with qualities like humility and curiosity are often the best candidates for leadership development. They're more receptive to coaching and thus stand to benefit the most from it. Ironically, the ones who need leadership training the least are often the ones who excel the most from such interventions.

In essence, leadership can be both a natural inclination and a learned skill. It's not a predetermined path but a complex interplay between a person's unique characteristics and their life experiences. As such, leadership development should be a dual endeavor: identifying and nurturing potential leaders and enhancing the abilities of those already in charge.

Ultimately, leadership is not a question of destiny; it's the outcome of a lifelong journey of personal growth and learning. And like any other journey, the path of leadership is open to anyone willing to embark on it.

Find Out >>HERE<< Why Leadership Training Matters

Clint Unrau

Clint Unrau

The Captain.... at Anchor Sales Knowledge - Sandler Manitoba