Are Leaders Born or Are They Made?
As the debate continues, how are you honing your authentic leadership style to accelerate your career?
There have been countless research studies evaluating leadership attributes in an attempt to determine if leadership is an inherent trait or if it is something that can be learned. While I don’t subscribe to the theory that everyone can be awesome at anything they want to be (if they only tried harder), I do believe that individuals can hone their natural talents and make their unique leadership skills work for them.
When you search online for ‘leadership traits’ you will find thousands of articles that list their top leadership skills. If you take those articles and compare their laundry list of skills, you will quickly see that the top 10 leadership traits turn into the top 50 because everyone has different ideas on what it takes to be a good leader.
Leadership traits that are highly sought-after are situational and unique. When one company is looking for aggressive, innovative and passionate people to lead their company, there is another looking for a detail-oriented leader who is focused on execution and who takes the time to really get to know and engage their employees.
While leadership attributes are highly varied and situational, the expected outcomes from strong leadership remain consistent. It’s important to create an environment where high performing teams are motivated and engaged. The culture should be positive and operating with a high degree of integrity and commitment. How you achieve that outcome is largely up to you. This is where you can leverage your unique style and lead authentically.
With such a wide definition of what makes a good leader, there are opportunities for many of us to step into that next leadership role.
Focus on what comes naturally. We all have skills that come naturally to us. We don’t have to think about it; we feel energized and are able to do certain things almost effortlessly. Find the leadership traits that are core to who you are as a person and make those as strong as they can possibly be. There is always someone who is better. Seek those people out for coaching or emulate their performance, adapting it to your own style.
Compensate for your weaknesses. No one is good at everything. (Actually we are usually only good at a few things if we we’re being completely honest). It’s time to try on a heavy dose of self-awareness for size. Take some time to reflect and find those leadership attributes that do not come naturally to you. Once you have an idea of where you fall short, determine if you are going to build or buy. For skills you feel you can improve – it’s time to get to work. For skills you are unable to master – make sure those skills are actively present on your team. It’s a sign of strength when you have people on your team who excel in areas you don’t; and who knows, you may pick up a new technique or two along the way.
Find the right fit and situation. There is no secret leadership handshake or one skillset that is more sought-after than another. The key is to find an area that needs your type of leadership style. Even within the same company, the needs of various departments and teams are very different. You don’t need to suffer by trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Finding the right fit benefits everyone. Your naturally strong leadership skills propel the company forward so you feel rewarded and energized, your team can build on that momentum and the company reaps the rewards from having strong results.
As you’re building your leadership presence and continually refining your value in the market place, don’t try to be something you’re not. You’ll only be half as good as you will be when you embrace your natural leadership style and find the right opportunity to leverage it. However, it’s important not to take your talents for granted. Perfecting them over time with guidance and practice is what will help you continue to evolve and grow.