Volume 10, Number 10
Leaders Are Not Born Leaders
by Danny Cox
Cox, a professional speaker in Tustin, California (phone
800-366-3101; email Mach175@aol.com).
He is author of Leadership
When The Heat's On (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1992).
The myth of the natural-born leader would have us believe that
leadership qualities are somehow bestowed at birth. Yet no doctor
in a delivery room ever held up a new-born infant and exclaimed,
"Well, looky here. We've got ourselves a natural born
leader." The local paper doesn't report the birth of a seven
pound six ounce leader yesterday at 2:30 in the afternoon. The
skills of leadership can only be learned through experience, and
the decision to accept the role is personal.
In an increasingly competitive world, successful businesses need
leaders, not managers, to handle the heat. Even so, an individual
can't anoint him/herself a leader. Leadership is an honorary
degree which can be bestowed only by those who are led. Top
management can't appoint leaders any more than leaders can appoint
themselves. The loyalty of those to be led must be earned through
successful attitudes and behavior. Those who have been assigned to
lead others, but lack the skills or motivation to do so, will
forever remain mere managers.
Just as leadership can't be self appointed, neither is leadership
scientific. Science requires hard evidence. Scientific facts are
incontestable and empirically provable. It might be argued that
the results of leadership are empirically provable. However, just
what exactly caused the results is
always debatable and probably involves intangibles to one degree
Since leadership involves people, a certain measure of
inconsistency and unpredictability must be accepted. Human nature
just isn't scientific. Knowing how to tap dance in tight spots can
be a life-saving leadership technique. The great leaders resemble
vaudevillians more than scientists.
Effectiveness as a leader is directly proportionate to
effectiveness as a human being. Above all else, a leader is
responsible for getting the best performance possible out of
people. Regardless of how many people are involved, the leader is
ultimately responsible. Quality of leadership is not determined by
the urgency of size of the task to be accomplished. Some of the
greatest leaders in business spend much of their time dealing with
common details. What makes these people great is how they deal
with ordinary details as well as major challenges. When searching
for effective leaders, follow three steps.
1. Identify those who are willing to genuinely accept the
challenges and responsibilities of leadership.
2. Identify who the people to be led will respect and willingly
follow. It's not a popularity contest, but a nominated leader must
be able to earn their respect.
3. Assess the leader's performance in real, non-scientific terms,
understanding that people are not machines. Leaders must be
merchants of hope.
Many people graduate from school intending to save the world by
slaying a fire-breathing dragon. Once they discover how few
dragons there are to slay, they must content themselves by
campaigning against an occasional lizard. Nevertheless, the great
ones fight lizards with tremendous style and vigor.