Can Leadership Be Learned?

Introduction

People often find themselves in leadership positions without having any formal training. This may be due to the situation, the availability of suitable others or because of a person’s experience or expertise in a certain area.

When taking on this role, some people will rise to the challenge while others will struggle with it and even fail. Why is that?

Research suggests that 30% of leadership may be inborn and 70% is a result of lessons learned through life experiences.psycnet.apa.org

This means that people who do not have natural leadership and management skills can develop them to avoid failing in their leadership roles.

Many people believe that great leaders are born and not made. This may be because is a given situation a leader may emerge from the crowd and save the day. It is easy to justify situations like this by saying that they were ‘natural leaders’ but there is nothing ‘natural’ about it. Leaders need to earn their title through hard work, dedication, perseverance, innovation, communication and supporting their team.


Leadership Questions

To be a great leader you should not ask:

How can I be a great leader?

You should ask:

How can I inspire others to follow me?

The main point here is a change in emphasis from ‘I’ or ’me’ (the leader) to ‘others’ (the rest of the team).


A great leader must motivate, enthuse and support their teams to achieve their vision.

By taking this approach, it is easier to see that leadership is something that can be learned through self-reflection, emotional intelligence and practice.

Some leaders may not consider their leadership style and just do things as they see fit but, unfortunately, this type of leader is often unaware of their impact on others and are not as effective or efficient as it could be. Even so-called ‘born leaders’ must master and improve their leadership skills over time rather than relying on their traits alone.


Experience

Leadership is more than just genetics. It is a constantly changing skill that is developed and perfected over time and depends on the situation, the complexity of the task and the ability of others who may be involved. Leadership skills can be learned but leaders must always be ready to adapt their approach and style to meet the varying situations they face.

For new managers and leaders, a feeling of uncertainty is perfectly natural. They must accept that they may be unprepared for the challenges ahead and that they need time to develop and grow into their new role.

The first place to start is to look at themselves, their strengths and their weaknesses. They can then play to their strengths while taking time to overcome their weaknesses.


Self Reflection

To do this the American Psychological Association suggest that leaders should ask themselves three basic questions:

  1. What qualities do good leaders possess?
  2. Do I have these qualities?
  3. How can I acquire or improve the leadership qualities I lack?

It should also be recognized that while the most important aspects of leadership can be learned, it does not mean that anyone can be a great leader. Some people do not want the responsibility that comes with being a leader while some just don’t feel comfortable or natural in the role.

Leadership is not a race to develop a set of ‘leadership skills’. There is no such thing as a perfect leadership style or approach. All situations are different and require different approaches. Leadership involves developing skills and making improvements over a whole career. Start developing your skills now.


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Posted in Leadership Series.