Leadership, born with it or learned?

It’s an age old question, I know. And it’s probably been beaten to death, and yet, the conversation continues.  Recently, I was having dinner and it came up again. What is leadership? I believe it’s something we are both born with the potential for AND something we learn. I’ve seen both in my life. The born leader who simply oozes leadership and people willingly follow.  And, in my years of leadership development, I’ve seen people learn to be better leaders.

The other question that comes up is where do people lead and how do they ‘earn’ the leadership. Leadership is not a positional power. People lead at all levels of an organization, people lead in their personal lives, and people lead by example. Look at how many followers some people have on their blogs? They are leading, whether they realize it or not. Inspiring others is leadership. Telling them what to do is not. And this is where I believe the difference lies and why I believe people can learn to be better leaders.

As John Maxwell says in his book, The Five Levels of Leadership, the one thing that separates a level 5 leader (the highest level) from all others is humility. Webster’s defines humility as “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble”. I agree with Maxwell. Those leaders who are truly inspiring are humble. They don’t put themselves above others, they value others’ opinions, and they are self reflective. Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Dr. King.  All examples of great leaders and all humble, not putting themselves above others.

And, guess what?  You can learn the importance of humility and you can learn to be humble.  So, yes, you can learn to be a better leader. Every leadership development program I’ve ever been involved with begins with some sort of self-assessment.  How do you really show up versus how you think you show up?  What do people see?  How do they feel about you? All of these questions help you see yourself as you really are, not some figment of your imagination.  Through this exercise, you can learn humility, and through humility, I believe you become a better leader. One who listens, cares, and serves.

So, you want to be a leader? Begin at home. Take a good hard look at yourself, ask others what they see,  learn to be grateful and yes, humble.


About Andrea Cole

Four years ago, I followed my dreams and my heart by quitting my job, selling my home, and moving myself back to Seattle from Washington, DC. I didn't know how things would turn out, but I knew whatever life held in store for me, it was going to be in Seattle. And what a ride it has been! I now help others live their lives through rewarding career and meaningful retirement coaching. My website is www.colecoach.com
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