It’s an old debate — can great leaders be made or are they just born that way? While there are some people who’re born with natural leadership talent, the majority aren’t. But, being born with the talent doesn’t mean it’ll be used effectively or guarantee success. We all know a charismatic slacker, who “wasted his potential”.
A natural aptitude is not enough to become an effective leader; even those who have it must learn how to use it. They sharpen their skills through trial and error, just like the people who don’t have an innate ability. Successful leadership is achieved through intentional focus and the willingness to learn. Here are 3 things to focus on and practice.
Build a base of supporters
Good leaders commit to a long-term strategy which builds support and connections before they need them. They create allies both within and outside the organization. We’ve all had the experience of feeling used and resentful when someone suddenly notices us because they want something. At best they get begrudging help and at worst can be sabotaged.
Do the work, there are no shortcuts. On-going, long lasting successful leadership is built on the firm foundation of good execution and taking responsibility, which earns other’s trust and respect. The capital you accrue is what you spend when (not if) you make mistakes. It’s the difference between “He messed up, we need to get rid of that guy” and “Well at least he was trying to do his best, he’ll do better next time”.
Build others interest in your success
People respond to winners — they want to help, be around and work with them. They respond to them for the most human of reasons, “What’s in it for me?”. If you learn to listen to and act on what’s important to others, they’ll become invested in your success. They’ll actively promote your ideas and support your power when they see how it’ll benefit them.
There’s this belief that leadership should be organic, people either got it or they don’t. This simply isn’t so. Successful leadership is achieved through intentional focus, a lifelong willingness to learn and practice, practice, practice. Being born with the gift of natural leadership is the least of the skills you’ll need.