Leadership Revealed

The question of whether leaders are born or made is one that has spawned many arguments, books, seminars, conferences, websites and more throughout the years. Why? Leaders are born with certain innate qualities that make learning leadership skills (patience, praising success and etc.) easier. Leaders also possess a disposition that makes leadership lessons easy to understand, digest and execute. It’s this confusing mix of natural ability and teachable skills that set leaders apart from the rest of the pack. Those who are not leadership material, usually fight the underlying principles of those lessons. They simply can’t align themselves with the idea of putting someone else’s needs before their own. The keyword here is usually — there are always exceptions.

Now in addition to being born and made, leaders are revealed. The revelation of leadership is one that most people don’t talk about because it happens after the leader is gone. After years of working on my leadership skills, I’ve come to believe that the adage “show me how things go when you’re gone and I’ll show you what kind of leader you are” to be 100% true. What I’ve come to understand is that leadership – true leadership is not about you. It’s about the organization and that principle revealed by how the organization moves forward after you’re gone.

People think that leaders are those who simple get the troops motivated, but leaders are more than well-paid cheerleaders. Leaders bring ideas, principles, vision, and systems that impact the company in a way that lasts beyond their stay. If the head honcho’s goal set is ego-driven and self-centered, then when the leader goes away, the organization will go astray. If the goal set is organization-centered, then upon the leader’s departure, the organization will still run smoothly. This is the mark of a real leader. They are rendered indispensable by his or her dispensability.

So the question is what kind of leader are you? If the organization falls apart after you leave, would you smile from ear to ear or would you be saddened that your presence didn’t result in permanent improvement? The answer is always revealing.

— Douglas Paul

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3 Comments

  • John Agno

    Nature or Nurture...that is the question, Douglas Paul.

    The Wall Street Journal's Science Journal (April 22, 2005) reports how life experiences affecting DNA is becoming better understood in lab animals and humans.

    In the lab, Michael Meaney and his colleagues of McGill University in Montreal report that maternal care changes the chemistry of a "neuroticism gene" and the rat grows up to be mellow and curious. This innate genetic trait of neuroticism is reversible by a nurturing environment.

    In a 2003 study, confirmed in 2004, a gene called 5-HTT thought to be associated with depression and suicide was not unless people who carry it also experience deeply stressful life events. In another study, men with the low-activity ("violent") form of a gene called MAOA were no more likely to grow up to be antisocial or violent unless they had also been neglected or abused as children.

    "These genes were not connected with aggression or depression, respectively, in the absence of exposure to environmental risk," says behavioral geneticist Terrie Moffitt of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and King's College London. "That different environments can produce different (traits) from the same genotype is now emerging in many fields of health research."

    "The whole subject of what counts as innate has just exploded," says science historian and physicist Evelyn Fox Keller of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Historically, nature/nurture divided what was fixed from what could be changed. But what our biology really gives us is our plasticity; our ability to respond to our experiences. That's what's innate."
    ________________________________________

    Too many leaders today are copycats:

    http://home.att.net/~coachthee...

  • Anonymous

    I'd agree with your assessment of leadership to a point: There is certainly an argument to be made for the value of creating a culture and processes that will run smoothly regardless of the presence of an one individual.

    However, I have found that the most effective leaders that I have known are at their best when things go wrong--reacting to decisively resolve situations. Similarly, these individuals are able to encourage a flood of ideas, distill them to their core elements, and make suggestions to implement them.

    On balance, I'd judgment and imagination, two skills that are very difficult to teach, top the list of essential leadership qualities. I'd argue that these very qualities tell leaders when to follow existing systems and when to modify or work around them. That's a rare skill that comes down to one person at the top, and it's going to leave a vacuum when he or she leaves a company.

  • Joseph Allan

    I'd agree with your assessment of leadership to a point: There is certainly an argument to be made for the value of creating a culture and processes that will run smoothly regardless of the presence of an one individual.

    However, I have found that the most effective leaders that I have known are at their best when things go wrong--reacting to decisively resolve situations. Similarly, these individuals are able to encourage a flood of ideas, distill them to their core elements, and make suggestions to implement them.

    On balance, I'd judgment and imagination, two skills that are very difficult to teach, top the list of essential leadership qualities. I'd argue that these very qualities tell leaders when to follow existing systems and when to modify or work around them. That's a rare skill that comes down to one person at the top, and it's going to leave a vacuum when he or she leaves a company.