Wednesday, July 25, 2012

leaders born

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Whether it did M&S any good, who knows? But ask any leader for their opinion on what makes for success, and theyll gladly tell you! Despite the old adage that good leaders are born and not made, it is now more widely accepted that the skills of leadership can and should be learnt and developed.Team leaders are often recruited for their operational expertise first and foremost, and not for their management or leadership skills. This is partly because of the emphasis on flatter, team-based structures, but also because it often makes sense to offer promotion to experienced members of staff during times of expansion and growth.

Unfortunately, whilst many people are keen to take on the additional responsibility, authority, and remuneration, it is risky doing so without ensuring adequate support and training. A good and experienced team leader will often make their role look effortless, but no doubt it took them a long time, many hurdles and a lot of stress to get there. Once appointed, first time leaders are often required to combine their new leadership role with existing full-time operational responsibilities.

It is up to leaders to ensure employee satisfaction by providing each of these factors. Leaders must determine specifically what will motivate their employees, and seek out ways to accomplish this. Four things that motivate people are responsibility, rewards, relationships, and reasons. In other words, people want responsibilities that allow them to use their talents and even stretch themselves; they also want to be rewarded for their efforts, even if it comes in the form of a simple pat on the back. People are motivated when they are coached to continue focusing on their goals, and this is where the relationship factor enters into the picture; leaders must develop relationships with their followers, rather than being unapproachable and shutting themselves off behind an office door. Finally, people want to know why they are being asked to do something and how their efforts will make a difference in the big picture. Doing meaningful work is an incredible motivator.

Leaders must be able to make people want to follow them - not out of fear, but out of trust, hope for success, excitement, or the promise of opportunity. Leaders should be able to create an aesthetic vision that inspires people with an ideal of what can be achieved (Maccoby, PG).

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Maccoby says there are two kinds of leaders - strategic and operational. Strategic leaders create the organizations vision, while operational leaders implement the vision.

Integrity is not only a personal virtue but also an organizational strength (Goleman, PG). In order to gain followers, a leader must first gain trust. This can be accomplished when a leader practices what he preaches and is honest and forthright at all times. In the business world, this concept has perhaps become more critical than ever in recent years, due to the current corporate climate. Companies are reorganizing, restructuring, downsizing, rightsizing, merging, and any number of other methods of reconfiguration.

Many people believe that leaders are born, and not made. Presumably new born leaders behave in a different way from other babies. It is almost worth a trip to the maternity hospital to check this out!

In reality, this belief is more often than not an excuse, to justify a lack of leadership behaviour in themselves. Of course we can all learn to be leaders, we can change our beliefs, our behaviours and our personalities. If we could not, our attitudes would be the same when we are 0, 40 and 60.

There are no born leaders, however we are all born with unique strengths that help us in our leadership journeys - they are within us, and with most people, they stay within. The notion that leaders are born, and others therefore will never be leaders, is illogical, depressing and seriously limiting to every human being. The idea suggests that the moment babies are born they either have the genetics to be a leader, or they do not. This argument would be fine if the definition of leadership, and leaders, had been constant for the past fifty years, but it is not. Indeed, more has been discovered about leadership and human behaviour in the last twenty years than in the previous thousand.

Furthermore, the born argument does not take into account the effect that experience and learning has on our personalities, behaviours and on our inner selves.

Leadership is a skill and a habit. Like most skills and habits, one that improves with practice. As we become more skilled - the habit takes over - we worry less about the mechanics of doing it and focus more on the outcomes to be achieved.

And so it is with personality, much of personality is a set of responses that have become habits. Often these were developed with little forethought or awareness in school or at home. Presented with a challenge we try a response, if it works we remember it and use it again. If it works often enough, we use it without too much thought and it becomes a habit. Take any set of habits, mix and stir, and we create our own unique approach to life.

But like any habit, we can choose to change. Much long-lasting negative behaviour can be altered.



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