Leadership – Title or Talent?

Monday, June 4 2012
LeadersBornIs leadership a title or a talent?

Warren Bennis, author of several books on leadership, writes, “Leaders are people who do the right things….”

Consider that definition. It doesn’t discuss title, it discusses attributes and competencies. It supports the fact that anyone can be a leader, even though they may not have the title. This ability to be a leader and do the right things is what I call “self-leadership.”  If your organization was full of self-leaders it would be virtually unstoppable.

Bennis goes on to say that “… managers are people who do things right. Both roles are crucial, but they differ profoundly.  I often observe people in top positions doing the wrong things really well.  Many of these people got the title because they were really good at one thing and the company assumed that that would automatically qualify them for a titled leadership position.”

How true! I have personally observed numerous examples of this; the best business developer (sales person) receives a promotion only to become a very poor sales manager. Another common example is of employees, who are technically experts, but fail when asked to lead others toward a vision. It may be the underlying reason many entrepreneurs fail when they start a business – they have talent in one area, but have not developed the ability to lead.

If you have the title of leader, spend time developing Self-Leaders. These are individuals who:

  • Have a clear sense of direction
  • Take responsibility for their results
  • Think always of how to be more efficient and effective
  • Share their expertise
  • Are strong team players
  • Take initiative
  • Are continually learning
  • Are excited about being involved in new initiatives
  • Constructively challenge conventional thinking when they feel it will provide better results
  • Relate well to others and get people to work with them toward a common goal
  • Have fun
  • Create a positive environment
  • Communicate effectively

Some self-leaders will eventually gain the title of leader, but many are happy productive people, who have fun and feel valued in their current roles. They are leaders you can rely on to develop the culture you desire.

Leadership is a talent that can be fostered in anyone who is willing to enhance what they are currently doing; who is encouraged and coached to grow; and who is provided with feedback that shows appreciation for good work.

To quote Warren Bennis, “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.”