Brampton. In their book Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge, Warren Bennis and Burt Naus share results from the study of modern day leaders. They conclude that there are a number of leadership myths.
One of the more common myths is that leaders are born, not made. This concept suggests that there is something inherited by one generation from the other that makes a person a great leader. Perhaps this myth has continued to this day because of the number of leaders of major corporations that are descendants of previous leaders of that organization. Therefore, it is assumed they must have inherited their leadership. However, I beg to differ.I suggest it is not nature but rather nurture that creates their leadership. People follow them because they assume they know how to lead. Perhaps they do or perhaps they like the rest of us make just a many errors in judgment. However, these errors are then explained away as a blip in the economy, or an anomaly in the environment in which the organization operates.
It has been said by many that if any person is given the same amount of information as the leader, they will make the same decision 99 times out of 100. Clearly that one percentage difference is easy to overlook based on the quality of correct decisions.Therefore, one can conclude that with the right information it is possible for one to be made a leader rather than being born one.
I suggest another myth is able to be dismissed by the same information providing logic. That myth being that leadership is a rare skill. Clearly it is not a rare skill.Rather it may be a skill rarely applied. One might ask why leadership skills would be rarely applied. The answer may be as basic as Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The two base needs in Maslow's hierarchy are the physical (need to survive literally) and security (the need for safety, shelter and stability). Put in more basic terms, we often do not show leadership because it threatens our basic needs.It is easier to go along and not rock the boat.
On the other hand, leadership may not be shown by someone in their work environment yet they may be an exceptional leader of a community service organization. Conversely they may be a respected leader in a business environment and are unable to lead people they can not control by means of salary and fear of job loss that is volunteers.
Clearly leadership itself is complex. Clearly our views of leadership are coloured by the lens through which we have seen the world in our maturing years.
Is leadership a rare skill? Are leaders born, not made? What do you say to these questions?
Gordon J. H. Newman, CPT
Gordon is President of The Newman Learning Group Inc. an organization dedicated to providing value add solutions to improve the bottom line performance of organization and individuals. Gordon may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-790-2944