February 09, 2011

It can't be taught, but you're not born with it either!

I'm talking about leadership of course ;-) I think most of us on MBE agree that you can't teach it, it's experiential as Paul said. Reading back through some of the other blogs, I see some people feel that it is some kind of innate quality you are either born with or not. I completely disagree! I think the truth is somewhere in the Nature vs Nurture argument that Kieran brought to the fore, which is an argument worth having. 

Let us assume for a minute, that you're not born with it, and it can't be taught. How the hell are you supposed to get it, or be it?! Well, just because it can't be taught, that's not to say it can't be learned... It goes back to experiential learning, i.e. learning from experiences. Nobody is born, and then starts showing other babies how to stand and walk, or say their first word. These things are picked up from our very first leaders - our parents, and others who care for us as infants. You can't lead without first being lead. If you will agree that nobody is born with knowledge or innate understanding of the universe, then it follows that you must learn things in order for people to consider you to be someone worth following. And if you know nothing when you are born, what is it that makes you a leader? Sure, there are some genetic traits and characteristics that might predispose you towards leading, but in the end, we are all nothing but the sum of our experiences. As Awal says, leadership is all about the ability to learn from any situation and implement your learning. And so, we arrive back at PDSA! Hehe! My theory is that great leaders can probably do this better than most. 

I wish I had more time to develop this, maybe you guys can help me if you find the time...

To finish, here is my personal definition of leadership, refined from the one that my group collectively created. I'm settling on it for now, but I expect it will change as I do. But for now, it is right, because it is right for ME!

"The art of forming a vision and influencing others towards sharing it, such that they think and act to help make it a reality."

- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Heyy Yanik..
    Great attempt to come up with a short an appropriate definition. Sorry if I’m being too critical, but do the words ‘forming a vision and influencing others towards sharing it’ not sound a bit too autocratic?
    But, I must say a great attempt to cut it short, because I still am not able to fit everything I think should be included in a short definition!!

    09 Feb 2011, 16:49

  2. I guess it depends on your view of the connotations of the word ‘influence’. If you feel that it tends towards manipulation or taking advantage, then yes, perhaps this sounds autocratic. Personally, I take the view that people are influenced by something that is compelling to them, i.e. they believe in the message. If they do not, they remain un-influenced, as it were.

    So, assuming that meaning, it is up to the leader to demonstrate that theirs is a good way (out of all the possible options) to proceed, or they will struggle to motivate anyone to follow them. If you can’t persuade someone of this, then you struggle to capture their attention, and you end up being an ineffective leader.

    It is the responsibility of the leader to form or create the vision. What they base this on is up to them, though I’d suggest that followers could have a valuable input. Also, I would hope that even if the part you identified seems dictatorial, the section that follows implies free-thinking and action on the part of the followers, at least in the process of goal achievement.

    These are my views anyway, what do you think? Does this clarify my meaning, or does it still seem autocratic? I don’t think you’re being too critical, and I like having your feedback :-) It’s interesting, because we had a similar conversation in my group, regarding the meaning and connotations of influence. I think we see even more here, that everyone needs their own definition for something that is as personal as leadership style, where there is no ‘correct’ answer, only one that ‘fits’ you, at a given moment in time…

    09 Feb 2011, 17:17

  3. it is good thought around the principle. however, for me, the definition of leadership is “Leadership”. If I was asked about what is embedded within this definition I would answer with a bunch of questions!

    09 Feb 2011, 20:38

  4. You are right Yanik.. to a great extent it is a matter of mere interpretation of words..!
    Well, great if this definition works for you, anyways I know you can never be as autocratic as I interpretted!!
    Cheers!

    14 Feb 2011, 23:26


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