I want to lay a myth to rest. Leaders are not born.
At least, not the leaders you actually want to be led by or have leading in your organisation.
It all starts with a fundamental misconception around leadership. When we talk about leaders being “born rather than trained” what are are talking about are the typical authoritarian “Boss” or “Ruler” type of “leader”. Those types of status seeking individuals do not need to be trained to be egotistical, narcissistic and bullying.
In my experience these are not truly leaders at all, because the first requirement of being a leader is to have followers. Bosses and Rulers don’t have followers, they have adherants, chancers and cronies, all looking for a shortcut to their own status by sticking closely to a dominant personality and drafting to some version of “success” in their slipstream. As such these adherents will seldom challenge their meal ticket. Far from it, they will seek to ingratiate themselves by agreeing, pandering and subordinating to the outrageous.
Followers are those who believe in a cause or purpose and see aiding and supporting a leader as the way to achieve the purpose. They will challenge the leader and in doing so they will enhance both the leader and the strategy. The leader will only be effective if they can align followers into a cohesive team and develop individual capability along the way.
Authentic leaders are the ones who inspire us, who make us feel good about ourselves, because we are contributing to sustained success in the organisation, community or society. Authentic leaders enable and empower us to do more, be more and create more value. Authentic leaders seldom issue orders (except in crisis), but listen to ideas and arguments and help the best become the plan. Great leadership is a subtle and sophisticated art.
Leadership is something we learn. We learn it through study, through practice and most of all through having great teachers.
The military, who know a thing or two about leadership, do not leave leadership to chances of birth anymore. Since a litany of military disasters catalogued in Norman Dixon’s classic “On the psychology of military incompetence” the British military have actively trained leaders through that combination of study, teaching and practice at a young age.
The disasters that Dixon writes about were not bad luck, they were a consequence of bad, egotistical, narcissistic, bullying leadership and their attendant knavish, fawning followers. This type of individual simply does not get to lead in the best military forces any longer.
Similarly many of our non-military disasters (The financial crash, Climate Change, corporate calamities, the situation in Syria, to name a few) are not the result of bad luck. They are the result of the same combination of bad, egotistical, narcissistic, bullying leadership and their attendant knavish, fawning followers.
Why does business and government still leave leadership to chance? Why do we not offer systematic leadership education and preparation for those who choose leadership, in their 20’s and 30’s. Is it because we have not yet had enough political or commercial disasters to persuade us yet?
We urgently need to both stop electing, selecting and promoting egotistical, narcissistic, bullying individuals to positions of authority (Please bear this in mind in your forthcoming voting opportunities in the US and the UK) and start developing the next generation of great authentic leaders.
Holos is currently designing leadership academies for a number of clients to do just that. A “Sandhurst” for commerce. A “West Point” for the public sector. Specifically to work with people in their 20’s and 30’s who are willing to make the choice to lead. The Holos model of leadership academy will work, as the military do, intensively with character as well as competence, using study, teaching and especially practice to deeply embed the habits, wisdom and intent that makes for great leaders.
Since we set Holos up our vision has been “Ubiquitous Authentic Leadership”.
Holos helps make change easy. We help organisations develop their leaders, map out and deliver the changes required to achieve sustained success even in a highly disrupted environment.
At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.
Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.
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