A quick answer to “Are leaders born or made?” is ‘born.’ The reasons are more complex as they impact the success of millions of careers and businesses.
Because not all natural leaders are great at the beginning, I’ll give you organizational and career strategies to move natural leaders to great.
I recently worked with a team of executive leadership to develop a leadership succession and development plan. These executives are doing the right thing by looking far ahead because they knew the business needs some great leadership talent to fill the future ranks.
I analyzed their initial plan and realized they were going down the wrong path. I opened up a discussion and asked, “What makes a great leader for your company?”
What kind of responses did I get?
- Project management experience
- Industry experience
- Budget experience and success
- MBA and certification requirements
- Implementation experience
These characteristics are everything to do with subject matter experts (SMEs) and managers and nothing to do with leaders. Many people don’t understand the differences between leadership and management and use the terms interchangeably.
I could hear the check-list marks through the recruiting process for their leadership program. The smell of the marker to check the boxes was filling the room. Their approach had to change fast because they were not going to be filling their program with leaders.
I hinted that they were leaving off the most important selection criteria. The group just stared at me. I asked,
Shouldn’t the single most important selection criterion for a leader be the absolute passion and need to lead?
There was silence and then I heard a ‘hmmm’ from the most senior executive. She invited me to elaborate.
Here is how I broke it down to them.