Leaders: are they born or made?

Ah, the good old nature v. nurture debate. Is it a cop out to say it can be a bit of both?  I firmly believe that to be an inspiring leader to a motivated, ambitious team, you need to have been moulded by what you have seen, experienced, achieved, tried and indeed failed at.  These are not subtleties you are born with, albeit there are a lucky few who are undoubtedly graced with a certain presence and gravitas, as well as great instinct for the commercials and the skills to lead a movement.

The human touch is becoming ever more prevalent within the corporate consciousness.  People’s values, differences and life balance are much more front of mind. They need to be if we are to connect with, work with and effectively manage the mostly brilliant and bright millennials; a generation of global citizens.  It is the great leader that understands the latticework of motivations and drivers in each and every member of their team.  Some people do this naturally, but failing to provide the tools and training to support new managers in this balancing act, is setting them up for probable failure.  It certainly won’t help optimise the performance of the team.

Of course no one ever gets it right every time; there has to be an acknowledgement of where and how mistakes are made, and how the successes came about.  A good leader should always be looking to learn and shape their thinking, actions and behaviour to increase the probability of success. So in this respect, I err more towards leaders being made. And inspiring managers have the humility to pass on these wisdoms, share their experiences with the next generation.  Mentoring is enormously rewarding for all parties.  However the opportunity for emerging leaders to check their ideas and garner additional insight is what helps add confidence to an already sound gut instinct.  It can help drive clarity and conviction that will be essential in their new roles to take the business forward, get buy-in across departments or amongst senior management as well as foster confidence from within their team.

Visionaries and trail blazers can be exceedingly exciting to work with, bringing an infectious energy and a clear, singular focus.  Never underestimate the people that immediately follow them through the door; their role is to make the vision a reality and put the building blocks in place to deliver.  I was reminded recently just how critical excellent execution is.  This is where you can really differentiate and excel, or miss a step, trip up and fail to deliver the strategic vision.

Great leaders know their own strengths and weaknesses and build a diverse team of individuals who bring different and complementary talents – and then let them grow in confidence and knowledge through an appropriate level of delegation in a supportive environment.  Whilst it is the job of the leader to centre the team around a shared vision, I believe the strength, passion and dedication of the entire team determines whether it is realised.

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