Our business culture isn’t short on leadership books, models and theories. There are business books examining trends for leaders of the future, courses on effective leadership, print and online articles offering insight on leadership.
And if all these theories and insights are beginning to sound the same to you, you’re right.
Born vs Made
I’ve been working with leaders for fifteen years now. During that time one thing’s become clear to me. It’s this: the great leaders, the ones who inspire me and perhaps many others, aren’t the ones boned up on current ideas of what makes good leaders. They’re the ones that seem somehow to have what it takes to lead.
They’re the kind of leaders who give credence to the idea that leaders are born not made.
But there’s another thing I’ve learnt from what I consider great leaders. The simple answers often hide a greater truth.
And in the case of leadership, I think that’s more true than ever.
What those millions of words written about leadership often fail to do is admit that the ability to lead isn’t found in a book. You won’t become a leader because you follow a model and “new” theories on leadership are often old wisdom repackaged.
You see, what I’ve come to see about leadership is that while many are running around trying to find how to lead. A few have worked out that greater truth. And it’s this: you don’t have to find out how to lead.
Lead: You Already Know How
And you don’t have to do that because you already know how to lead. You do it hundreds of times a day. It’s the combination of skills you use as you guide yourself through life: judgement, honesty, integrity, curiosity, resilience and courage, among others.
If that sounds simple, it is. And it isn’t. The hard part about leadership—the part that makes it looks to others like a superpower or that leaders are born that way—is demonstrating those qualities consistently. And the commitment to do that is what it takes to grow as a leader.
“But if that’s true,” I hear you say, “Why the demand for all those leadership books, articles and blogs?”
Well, my guess is they offer a guide to leadership of the “follow these steps and you’ll be a great leader” sort. And that is the biggest lie of all.
Think about it: if you’re following steps, how much of a leader are you?