I used to beat myself up for not being like the model leaders we read about and even teach about. Every opportunity to train on leadership felt like judgement day as I examined my conscience, asking whether I qualified to teach leadership.
‘Are leaders born or made?’ Is a question, I often ask in leadership and management classes, and it gets everyone puzzled and thinking 🤔. Some people immediately answer, ‘leaders are born’, I mean how else do you explain the courage displayed by some of the great leaders of our time? Others would respond, ‘leaders are made’, accidental in many cases, especially where leadership is thrust upon them.
Then I go on to say to my class, ‘if leaders are indeed born, we need to stop wasting our time in class and go home.’ Afterall, there’s little point trying to learn something that is already pre-determined at birth. Then the class listens to what next I have to say.
But you know what I have learned?
That…Leadership is a journey. That we can all learn to be better leaders.
That many of the people we admire as leaders weren’t born with the traits we admire. They didn’t come out of their mummy’s tummies with leadership competencies, rather, they developed into the leaders they are.
They got to know themselves better. They discovered their strengths and limitations. They leveraged their strengths and took responsibility for their limitations. They were true to themselves. They goofed many times and acted in ways they were ashamed of. They stood alone in many battles and wore their battle wounds in the open field. They accepted that they weren’t quite there yet, that they were work in progress. They had periods of reflection and they learned from it. They worked to improve themselves. They kept at it and are still at it.
My personal leadership journey has been arduous, painful atimes and very reflective.
I am not where I want to be but I am definitely not where I started. Growth may not be as fast as I want it but even I have to admit that there’s progress. And one day, some people will watch me and admire me, thinking I was born this way.
No, I learned it. Leaders like me and you are made not born.