Leaders are made, but what is it about some people that leadership seems like something intrinsic to who they are?
Despite decades of research to contradict the notion that leaders are born with it, people still believe that some trait, some intrinsic quality is what separates leaders from everyone else. That assumption isn’t limited to the average layperson’s anecdotal observations either. In Gallup’s groundbreaking study from a few years ago, they wrote that only those managers with the talent to manage would truly be successful.
Gallup wrote that talent is something intrinsic to the person; they are inherent characteristics from which one builds on performance. That is to say that, according to Gallup, what sets apart a manager (we’ll use leader and manager interchangeably for the moment), is some trait that only 1 in 10 people have. The only hope one can draw from Gallup’s assertion is to be one of the 10% with a high talent for managing or one of the 20% with a functional ability for managing.
Thankfully, we know that is wrong.
As I mentioned earlier, decades of research has proven over and over again that leadership is not a trait; it’s a skill. Even better, it’s a skill that you can develop without any innate prerequisites, but that still doesn’t answer the question I posed at the beginning of this article.
What makes leaders different from other people?
I’m reminded of the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Dennis Quaid’s protagonist character Dr. Jack Hall has a son, Sam, trapped in New York when a deadly, hurricane-like winter storm is going to pass over them. The storm causes temperatures to drop so quickly and so low that people are immediately frozen to death. In one particular scene, Sam is with a group of people hiding in a library when one of the group, a police officer, encourages everyone to leave the library. Sam steps up and pleads with the people to stay. He has knowledge from his expert father about the damage the storm will cause, but only a handful of people, mostly his friends, stay with him.
Later in the movie, the group that left is found frozen to death while Sam and his friends survive thanks to Sam’s leadership.
Sam wasn’t the leader because he had innate management skills; nor was he the leader because he had expert knowledge about the storm’s deadly effects. He was the leader because he was willing to step out from the crowd and be in charge.
Don’t mistake that being in charge and being a leader are necessarily the same thing. Someone can have the positional power of leadership and still not lead people. A leader is only one if someone is willing to follow them.
In Sam’s case, he was willing to lead, and that is what set him apart from the crowd: Willingness.
You may have the skills to lead, and they might be great, but until you are willing to lead, you’ll never stop being part of the crowd.
Question: What happened to make you willing to lead? What’s holding back your willingness to step away from the crowd? You can leave a comment by clicking here.