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What exactly is . . . a born leader?
In this episode of The Spirit of Leading, I explore the question, “Are leaders born or made?” Is leadership something learned, something innate with which you are born, or some combination of both?
How does one become an INPowered Leader who INPowers other leaders?
Some people seem to be naturally talented with leadership abilities, but does that mean that those who do not seem to possess such natural ability are not cut out to be leaders?
I discuss innate talent and why it might not be enough to guarantee one will be an effective leader.
Furthermore, checking off long lists of leadership competencies might be missing the point of what it takes to be an INPowering Leader. In this podcast, I give you the five attributes I believe someone must possess to transform their leadership talents and abilities into an INPowering Leader. They probably are not what you think.
Transformation is the process of changing from one condition to another. Even if leadership does not come naturally for you, you can still transform yourself into an effective leader by addressing these five attributes.
Links to references in the podcast
Podcast 008 with Terry Catlett
Marcus Winn’s Moment of Truth leadership book
Lisa Haisha, psychologist and counselor, The Soul Blazer
“True Leaders are Born, Not Made,” Ranjit Singh Thind
Becoming a Resonant Leader, Annie McKee
Have you noticed that everything we learn to do, we have to do it to learn it?
Q: What’s the difference between a little league baseball player and a World Series MVP (most valuable player)?
A: Time, practice, and the commitment to develop their talent.
What happened during those years between signing up for the first little league team and stepping onto the playing field in a world championship series is the incremental, almost imperceptible, transformation that took place over a lifetime.
Transformation is not a quantum leap. There are no shortcuts. However, you will see and feel the improvement as you progress. You will get better with each successive practice.
Exceptional performance in any endeavor takes transformative learning and skill building.
Learning to lead takes practice and discipline. The science and art of leadership takes time, practice, and commitment to make the transformation from novice to master.
The journey is much the same as any other high performer.
The problem I’ve noticed in my work is that many managers want world class leadership without the world class practice. It’s like me expecting to shoot par golf when I never step onto the practice range or take any lessons. Even when I play a lot of rounds, I consistently shoot between 88 and 95, which is not very good.
My point: mediocre to poor leader/managers who never take time to train and be coached remain mediocre to poor regardless of how many years of experience they have. Transformation requires time on the practice range.
To be high performing (INPowering) leaders, it takes imitating the behaviors that high performers have in common. Here are five:
- Passion for the game. Top performers love what they do. Consequently, they specialize in an endeavor and devote their energy and learning to being successful in that arena. You must want to take on a leadership role and have a passion for doing it well.
- Dreams of being a champion. This dream is closely connected to the love of the game. Champions pit themselves against the rigors of the sport. They understand the difference between beating an opponent and striving for personal excellence. There is a difference between being good enough to win and performing at your highest level. Leaders strive for personal excellence above egocentric one-upmanship.
- The discipline to do the mundane practice every day. Every athlete practices several hours a day. They practice the fundamentals over and over until muscle memory takes over. They do not let anything, or anyone, interfere with practice time. Why? So when it’s time to perform, they don’t have to think about how to do the skill, because they need to think about the context in which the skill is being used.
- The willingness to be coached. High performers seek others from whom they can learn and elevate their performance. The coach is the extra set of eyes to help the athlete make a connection about what they are doing and the results they are getting. They know that no matter how expert they are, a coach can help them improve.
- A relentless desire to be challenged and evaluated. Competition is a performer’s way of seeing how their practice has paid off. In sports, it’s comparing one’s performance against another practitioner of similar ability. Competition is not merely about beating the competition, but about learning how to improve your own skills in the process.
The INPowered meet every situation as a way to make themselves better. They evaluate both the successes and the failures in a pursuit of transformative improvement.
Start now transforming yourself into a high performing leader.
With each passing day,
you will be more
Seth Godin wrote in Tribes, “Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements,” (2008, 11).
Heretics are trailblazers. They are unconventional leaders, and they cause a lot of anxiety for those who are trying to arrest change and keep everything within a narrow comfort zone.
The inertia of the comfort zone resists any side trips into unknown territory. It would rather keep doing the same old thing that doesn’t work than try something different that seems risky or is unproven.
Those who call themselves leaders to keep everything the same, to play it safe, to protect the status quo, are leading us to nowhere.
These are the INPowered.
The trailblazers are leaders who are looking for opportunities to make things better. Furthermore, they are creating those opportunities by rebuilding relationships among the estranged, buy pushing science and technology into new applications, buy reshaping communities so people can find common solutions to difficult problems.
History is dotted with many heretics in all disciplines–government, religion, medicine, science, business, technology, and others–who dared challenge the status quo or conventional wisdom. Many, whom we now revere, were originally ridiculed and persecuted as heretics for their outlandish and absurd ideas and philosophies.
Some of my favorite heretics are:
Jesus bar Joseph of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) for daring to bad mouth the written traditions of the Jewish religion that got in the way of observing the spirit of God’s Law (Mark 7:1-23). Jesus really went off on the religious legalists in Matthew 23. It got ugly. The Jewish religious leaders were able to have him executed over it and other heresies.
Socrates, the Greek philosopher, for holding the rulers of Athens accountable for their immorality and lack of ethics. He was tried and found guilty of corrupting the minds of the youths and for mocking the gods of Athens. He was executed.
Galileo Galilei, the Italian astronomer, for proving that Earth was not the center of the universe as the church leaders professed. His inventions allowing observing celestial bodies literally showed the sun was in fact the center of our solar system. But when it came to religious orthodoxy, seeing was not believing. The church put the pressure on Galileo to recant his findings. He did, but spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
Mahatma Gandhi, for challenging British rule over India and accompanying civil rights abuses and ultimately achieving national independence. His non-violent methods have inspired many other civil rights movements. While trying to heal religious strife late in life between Hindus and Muslims, he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist.
One thing more. The kind of heretic I’m talking about is the one who contributed something of substance to the welfare of mankind. I’m not talking about egomaniacal blowhards with a personal agenda.
Nicolo Machiavelli had it right when he wrote, “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.”
Who would you add to this list?
Who are some of your favorite heretics who contributed something of substance to the welfare of mankind?
Will you join the ranks of the heretics who made a difference that outlived them?
And what will be your cause, your passion?
Will you be
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Just about any day of the year you will see or hear about some volunteer activity in your community. Many of the events that make our communities work are staffed mostly by volunteers. Last year, more than 62 million Americans turned out to volunteer at least one day. Most of those volunteered many days and hours to lend a hand in the cause of something that improved the quality of life for their community and its residents.
This episode of The Spirit of Leading features Kristi Leonard, who just completed her 2014-2015 term as president of the Junior League of Oklahoma City. I interview Kristi about her experiences leading an effective all women volunteer organization that supports her community through a variety of projects, all run entirely by volunteers.
Kristi shares her insights and experience as an example of how young women can develop their leadership abilities.
- Take advantage of opportunities to develop leadership talents through volunteering.
- The secret to engagement is to work on something that stirs your passions.
- The rewards of making a difference in your community.
- See and experience your community through different eyes and perspectives.
- Being a volunteer puts you in contact with smart, experienced, women and men who want to share their experiences.
- Take advantage of mentors who can become life-long confidants and advisors.
- Listening is one of the most important skills a leader can develop and sharpen.
- Engagement is a motivator. Get others involved in something they are passionate about and letting them do it is a better way to motivate than micromanaging.
- Get comfortable with being the leader standing in the front of the room.
- Let others use their talents and don’t micromanage.
- Experience the value of ongoing encouragement and recognition.
Kristi is a role model for young women wanting to become more involved as a leader at work and in their community. She also is a role model for young mothers who are balancing their family life and their desire to continue to develop all their potential in the workplace.
The Junior League has evolved into one of the most effective women’s volunteer organizations in the world since it was founded in 1901.
Today the Junior League makes its presence known through the efforts of more than 150,000 volunteers in 292 leagues in four countries.
Check out your nearest chapter of the Junior League.
A young girl watched her mother every day in the kitchen preparing delicious meals. Occasionally the mother would ask the young girl to hand her a pan, or a bowl, or a spatula, or a whisk.
Even though her mother was a fabulous cook and presented elegant and complicated meals for guests and family on holidays, and although the young girl watched intently and handed items to her mother when asked to do so, she never learned to cook.
Another young girl watched her mother every day in the kitchen preparing delicious meals. The mother said to her daughter, “Pull your stool up here and help me prepare this meal.” Every day the daughter worked beside her mother preparing meals under her patient tutelage, and she also became a fabulous cook.
How many times do we make the mistake of the first mother, who provided many wonderful meals but never passed her knowledge and skill on to her daughter? Beyond that, how sad that this mother did not take advantage of the many hours together to form a closer bond with her daughter.
Often we work along side eager individuals who want to improve their knowledge and skill so they can grow into more mature and successful professionals. However, we are so busy and wrapped up in our own responsibilities that we miss the signals and the opportunity to share something of ourselves with them that will make them better and more productive both now and later.
Mentoring in the workplace
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
American author, poet, humanitarian
Mentoring provides many benefits for oneself and for those we mentor. Mentoring makes us more INPowering and effective leaders.
When one feels more competent, they learn to step out on their own more readily. They mature in their knowledge and skill and are eventually able to coach and mentor others.
Mentoring and including others fosters engagement. We invite fresh eyes and new ideas into our experience, which also opens us to new experiences and ways of thinking and doing.
A closer bond
Mentors and mentees develop closer ties and come to know each other at a deeper level. Trust grows in this bonding. When we trust more, we are willing to exchange information more freely and more comfortably. This reinforcing cycle makes both stronger.
Gratitude and loyalty
Regardless of how deep the bonds become, mentees remember their mentors with gratitude and fondness. Mentors nudge others toward maturity, and then, they send them into their own world to make a difference. These networks remain intact over time and distance, and this broadens the influence and reach of the mentor.
Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Congresswoman, make this case for mentoring, “Everyone has a transferable commodity-knowledge.
Sharing your unique expertise and making introductions for someone creates a lasting legacy.”
“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”
When you bring out the best in others,
you also bring out the best in yourself.