Now that I have your attention this question forms the basis for an ongoing argument in the training and development world. Of course everyone will tell you that leaders are made and that would be true. Yet most of us can point to those individuals who seemed to possess that natural influence and ability to gather people to a task and get them across the finish line. So we could say that both apply. Perhaps though we are asking the wrong question?
Let's try this one on for size; Whether you are born or made, what kind of leader are you? I like this because regardless of what your personal beliefs are around the question there is no doubt that choosing to be a certain kind of leader is something you craft and develop. So leaders may be born or they may be made but choosing to be a certain kind of leaders is what is really at play here.
The Accidental Leader
This person came into leadership quite by accident. Either someone left and they were picked to fill the gap or through simple time in they were promoted into leadership (that's what we do with senior staff right?). They have great hard skills around their previous roles but are deer in the headlights when it comes to the skills required for effective leadership. Chances are they will take their cue for leading from their boss, who chances are also happens to be an accidental leader.
The Positional Leader
This is the poor person who continually falls back on their position to get staff to do their bidding. "You will do this because I said so and I am the boss!" Its not that we all haven't had to play that card from time to time but this leader is actually quite insecure and rather than engaging in meaningful dialogue around roles and goals they will constantly take this position for fear of being found deficient. They don't realize that they don't have to have all the answers and they have not developed their ability to influence staff as part of their leadership.
This is typically an accidental leader who has learned this trait from their boss or bosses before them. We find many "screamers" in the Oil & Gas industry but they can be found right across all industry sectors. They get a certain positive reinforcement when they can walk onto a rig site, shop floor or office and everybody scrambles. It comes from the false sense of reality that tells them that since everyone is running they must be doing a good job. Yelling reinforces that sense of getting things done. In truth though most folks will figure out this is all bark and little bite. The reality is that once that person leaves the vicinity things go right back to what they were before that person walked in. Fortunately many companies have made a lot of progress in dealing with this type of leadership.
The All Star Leader
All star leaders look good at the outset but soon people figure out that this leadership is all about the leader. The team, company or group are tools for the advancement and promotion of the leader. Traits of this kind of leader would be things like taking credit for work done by an underling, throwing an employee "under the bus" when something goes sideways and constantly inhibiting the input or talent of those below them lest they be outshone by them.
The Authoritarian Leader
As one leader once put it to me "I have forgotten more about this business than you will ever know!" (To this day I wonder if they really ever stopped and thought about that statement - lol!) This is the person who knows it all and will not brook any disagreement. The old adage that "we will get along just fine as soon as you figure out I am god" is a good description of this type of leader. Certainly they will provide lots of structure and people will know where they stand but creativity and engagement beyond the prescribed boundaries will be strictly inhibited.
The Authoritative Leader
If you have ever worked under an authoritative leader you know just how rare and how valuable they are. They are knowledgeable and confident but never afraid to admit when they don't know something or are stumped. They have tremendous influence with the group, company or team but are not the least bit afraid to use that influence to promote others. They have a clear sense of what the goals of the team should be and also how to align the skills and passions of their team with those goals. And they never forget that the team works because of its people and thus this leader is a great nurturer of talent. Collins called this a Level 5 leader and there are many names for them but you will know it when you have one.
Whether you are looking to become a leader or whether you are already a leader which one of these would apply to you? We will all have an opportunity to exercise leadership in our careers the real question is "what kind of leader will you be?" Performance Leadership - Think About It!
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