Leaders are Made not Born.

 In Coaching, Culture, Leadership
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” –President Eisenhower.

I use this quote quite frequently, and the key word in that definition that stands out for me, especially for leaders, is the word “art.” Speak to any artist how they perfected their craft, and they’ll likely tell you with practice. A painter will spend years learning how much pressure to apply to a brush, at what angle, to achieve a particular stroke on the canvas. A violinist mastering a Mozart concerto could spend hours repeating the same passage over and over until she gets the fingering just right. And a baseball pitcher will throw pitch after pitch after pitch until he can get the curveball to break precisely where and when he wants it.

(Ironically, when these artists finally reveal their works to the public, critics will often rave over the artist’s “natural-born ability” — as if hard work weren’t the biggest part of the equation.)

Leadership Skills are Developed

So it is with leadership. People are not born leaders — rather, leadership skills are developed over time, and with practice.

You could say someone who is naturally extroverted and charismatic may have a natural talent for leadership, much like an artist might have a natural talent for her craft. But it would be a mistake to undersell how much experience is required to be an effective leader, how many errors in leadership are often made and (hopefully) learned from.

With this in mind, think about the people in your own life — either through work, through your hobbies or in your own circle of family and friends — who have served in leadership roles. What traits do they all share? What do all of them have in common?

Chances are, not much.

Leaders Come in All Shapes and Sizes

I’ve interacted with hundreds of leaders in my work with private companies, my eight years as a commission officer in the U.S. Army and my involvement in community organizations. I can tell you from firsthand experience that leaders come in all shapes and sizes — men and women of varying ages, backgrounds, experiences and personalities.

While many of the leaders I’ve worked with were naturally gregarious, some of the best ones were more introverted, taking the time to think about what would really motivate and inspire the people they led.

These experiences taught me that there is no leadership gene that some people have and others don’t. Everyone has the capacity — the potential — for leadership.

So, let me ask you:

Do you choose to become a leader?  Have you made the choice to refine the art and science of your leadership?

We welcome (and read) all comments, and would love to hear about your experience.

Not ready to share openly? That’s okay. Contact us directly at info@whereleadershipbegins.com.

If you’re a new leader, either to the organization or promoted from an individual contributor role, we recommend you download our ebook here.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Maureen
    Reply

    Very inspiring article. Yes I agree that leadership is an art and are made not born. And I also believe that it is a gift because not everyone has the heart of being a good leader.

    • Dan Freschi
      Reply

      Maureen- Such great insight. I agree with you that not everyone has the heart to be a good leader. Many times, especially newer leaders, haven’t made the shift from all about “me” to all about “we” or even all about “you”. In our opinion, it is often driven by the leader’s fear, fear of losing something personal to them. Yet, ironically perhaps, if that shift doesn’t happen their loss will be even greater.

  • Dan Freschi
    Reply

    Maureen- Such great insight. I agree with you that not everyone has the heart to be a good leader. Many times, especially newer leaders, haven’t made the shift from all about “me” to all about “we” or even all about “you”. In our opinion, it is often driven by the leader’s fear, fear of losing something personal to them. Yet, ironically perhaps, if that shift doesn’t happen their loss will be even greater.

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