“He/she is a born leader!” How often have we heard that? Is it their charisma, speaking ability, their drive? All of the above? What makes someone a true leader, and, were they really “born that way?” I believe we all have within us the qualities to lead, but I also believe none of us is born knowing HOW to be a leader. We LEARN how to be a leader.
We learn from our experiences during childhood, within our families, and in school. Were you encouraged to speak up or “perform,” whether getting up in front of your church congregation, or acting in a school play? Did you run for student council, or sit on the debate team, or even sell Girl Scout cookies? All of those experiences contribute to how each of us has learned how to lead.
I came across this definition recently: “Leadership is the art of leading others to deliberately create a result that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.” Good leaders can sometimes single handedly turn around failing companies. Why? Because they are able to deliberately create and challenge results by enlisting the help of others. They can even change a company’s culture. However, simply having the responsibilities of being a leader doesn’t necessarily makes someone an effective leader. True leaders start leading long before they have anyone reporting to them.
The good news is that no matter your leadership skills today, you can always become a better leader, but Professor Harry Kramer at Northwestern University says you need to ask yourself these two important questions; 1) Do you really want to be a leader? And, 2) How proactive do you want – need – to be to make being a leader a reality? Making it a reality often means getting out of your comfort zone. It may require learning new habits, even changing behaviors.
When I work with clients, I like to use the analogy of a “rubber band.” As creatures of habit, we are only willing to stretch ourselves so far, but in order to grow and develop into being more of an authentic leader, we have to stretch that rubber band far beyond what’s comfortable… initially, until those new habits become engrained. Research suggests it takes a minimum of 30 consecutive days to change one habit. Not impossible, but diligence is key.
If you can stretch yourself… if you can lead yourself… you CAN lead other people.