Endorsed by the President of the Center for Creative Leadership, Leaders are Made Not Born is a realistic and thought-provoking look at the leadership skills you need to bring out the very best in yourself and others. This book closes the gap between theory and practice by revealing 40 simple skills that can help you be the leader you want to be. We are all capable of becoming great leaders. What it takes are the desire, commitment, and determination to lead, as well as the expert advice and education this book provides. Then, it is up to you to practice the forty skills until they are perfected. Now, more than ever before, the world needs great leaders. You can be one.
1_Willingness to Stand Up and Be a Leader
“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” —John Kenneth Galbraith
“You can only lead others where you yourself are willing to go.” —Lachlan McLean
Being a leader is wanting to make a difference and to be willing to help people achieve personal and organization goals.
As I suggested earlier, you have to want or be compelled to be a leader. No amount of badgering or cajoling or training will make it happen. That means you are willing to take charge, to not just be the “boss” but also to achieve the combined needs and goals of your team, company, or organization. Most of us are familiar with our various company needs, but you may also be asking yourself, “Does he mean that I should take an active part in my employees’ lives, both professionally and privately?” Simply put, yes. If you don’t have this basic desire, you will not be a true leader. You may be a driver of people and a manager of things, but success will elude you. If you look around when the hard work comes, you will see few if any dedicated followers behind you.
Sean was the new leader/supervisor of a design group of engineers. He was happy about the promotion because it came with a substantial pay raise. Truth be known, he was promoted because of his technical knowledge more than anything else. What Sean failed to consider when seeking and assuming the new position was the added responsibility and duties. Faced with the need to provide leadership to the team and develop the other engineers, he found he had no interest in doing either. Instead, he continued to work on designs and assumed that everyone else could take care of themselves. After all, they were all adults. He provided no guidance; he did nothing to keep the engineers apprised of what was going on in the company or division; and rather than helping engineers improve and advance, he saw them as potential competitors for his job. He was harsh when deadlines were not met and said nothing when they were. He purposely focused on the work, mostly his own, and ignored human needs and wants around him.
As one might guess, the performance of his unit declined dramatically and, despite warnings or counseling from above, Sean did nothing positive to correct the problem. He did get harsher with the engineers and even made threats of firing, but to no avail. In fact, several members of the team quit or sought transfers, leaving the section short-handed. In the end Sean himself was fired for lack of performance.
- Why do you think Sean failed?
- Think of an instance when you have witnessed the lack of desire to lead that yielded a failure. What were the circumstances? What was the outcome?
- Think of a time when you might have observed a person declining a leadership role in favor of continuing to do what they were doing. Why do you think he made that choice?
- What do you think Sean’s life would be like now if he had declined the promotion?
- What should the company have done before promoting Sean to the new position?
- If you have been offered a promotion, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I really want this promotion?
- Does this job fit with the vision of my career and/or life I have established for myself?
- Can I accept responsibility for my actions and, more importantly, those of the people I will lead?
- Am I willing to accept risk? (Read more about risk in Skill #13-accept risk.)
- Do I believe that developing people is a major part of being a leader?
- Can I devote whatever time and energy is necessary to the job?
2. If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, you have a promising start.
- If you answered “no” to one or more of the above questions, stop to ask yourself what this tells you before accepting the position.
About the Author
Michael J. Farlow is a human behavior specialist, trainer, speaker and master coach who helps professionals become more effective leaders and improve relationships with others. He has more than thirty years experience in the public and private sectors, ranging from a career as a naval aviator to management and senior executive positions in corporations such as Alcoa, McDonnell Douglas, Teledyne, and CACI International. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and has earned master's degrees in management and technology and a doctorate in organizational leadership. Engaged in the local community, Michael is an adjunct professor at Concordia University and a guest columnist for the San Antonio Express News.