Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read

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