You often hear the question posed – “Are leaders born or made?” Despite years of academic field research, the answer remains hotly debated. That said, leadership seems to be a talent companies desperately need today but often lack.
I had the occasion to recently hear a Fortune 50 CEO talk about his ascent to the top echelon and despite pulling-off one of the greatest turn-arounds in American corporate history, he still questions whether he is a good leader. To his credit, (and his self-awareness) he realizes that leadership proficiency is a continuous process of improvement, change and practice.
In our search work, we often hear executives tell us they are good leaders. When we probe as to how they master the craft, few ever talk about the need to improve or focus attention on acquiring new skills. They speak of it as just another checkmark on their resume of accomplishments but rarely with any self-introspection.
Writer/Researcher, Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, describes excellence or true mastery as being achieved after “a critical minimum level of practice” generally ten thousand hours; in short, practice makes perfect. To that point, leadership capabilities are not “static” but a “dynamic skill-set” which needs continuous analysis, modification and development over one’s career.
So the next time your company offers a leadership training session, or you get a solicitation for an off-site development seminar, pause for a moment and ask yourself this question: Am I the sort of leader I would want as my boss?
Born or made – who knows? The best leaders keep working at it, welcoming the chance to learn more; soliciting input from a wide array of sources and keep questioning their capabilities. Maybe as important, they recognize the need to seek skills development whenever possible.