Can Being a Good Leader Be Taught?

Stephanie Thompson on September 5, 2018

There are people who seem to be born with natural leadership and management skills, and are therefore able to obtain leadership positions faster than others. Research from the University of Illinois even suggests that 30% of good leadership is genetic. However, the same study also points out that 70% is a result of life lessons and experience. So while there are people who are fortunate enough to have a head start in terms of having innate leadership abilities, it’s more important for these traits to be nurtured and developed.

Companies make the common mistake of promoting people with technical competence to leadership positions. A Forbes piece on leadership cites famed hockey player Wayne Gretzky as an example. Although he was a star performer on the rink, Gretzky also turned out to be a terrible coach. The article goes on to describe how this is a common trap to fall into not just in the realm of sports, but across a wide array of professions. One thing that is vital in developing leaders is the desire for the person in question to want to lead.

The Leadership Development Framework

In this light, the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) created a framework for leadership development after interviewing over 200 people in top positions. The framework simply states that 70% of executive development should come from work experiences, 20% from developmental relationships, and 10% from coursework and training. The model builds on the research revealing that people retain information better if they obtain it in a practical context. Whereas formal learning allows for skills building in safe environments, informal learning builds on spontaneous, unstructured situations.

The model, however, does not downplay the value of formal learning. Workplace experiences simply reinforce the skills, theories, and explanations gained in classroom learning. This formal training can come in various forms. Aside from classroom-based skills, you can also turn to books, articles, and white papers. Modern technology has also provided additional options for leadership development in the form of eModules. Maryville University’s overview of their organizational leadership degree states that leadership skills like critical thinking, change management, and collaboration can be learned 100% online. Some online courses even require a practical application of these traits, via projects or assignments. These can help learners apply the lessons taught to them through distance learning.

Tips on Becoming an Effective Leader

There are several ways to make leadership development training more impactful. Consider these tips:

Identify weaknesses – Self-assessment can help determine your areas of improvement. Perhaps you have knowledge gaps, or need help in soft skills like communication and collaboration. You can also ask for feedback from peers through one-on-one interviews or open forum discussions. Once your weaknesses are known, you can then focus your leadership development on those specific aspects.

Visualize your goals – Root Inc. previously shared that visualization can help develop a better understanding of concepts in a way words cannot. As a leader, you can give certain leadership concepts a deeper meaning by drawing a mental picture of each one. For example, what image comes to mind when you hear “innovation”? This method can help you formulate your goals in a more detailed manner.

Grab opportunities outside of work – If you were offered a leadership role in a community event, don’t hesitate to take it. Chances like this can not only help you hone your skills, but they can also train you for situations in different settings. This way, if you get assigned to a different team or role at work, you are better prepared to handle the change.

In conclusion, the age-old of question of whether leaders are born or made has long been put to rest. Any person can be molded into a leader, as long as his or her desire to lead provides a solid foundation for development.

Article prepared exclusively for rootinc.com

Written by: Stephanie Thompson

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