Have you ever heard someone describe a leader that they admire as a “born leader”? But really, what is a born leader? Are leaders born? If I were to ask you to tell me what qualities you think of when you think of a great leader each of you would probably answer with totally different qualities and attributes.
I have just read some blogs remembering events on the anniversary of 9/11. Did born leaders appear at just the right time? Were Mayor Giuliani and President Bush leaders who appeared at just the right time? Or were they shaped and created by circumstances long before 9/11 and had the resolve do what needed to be done?
Let’s take two military leaders from World War II. George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower were both considered to be great leaders. Their attributes and their personalities, however, were very different. Patton was in the face of his troops. On the other hand Eisenhower was a great consensus builder who melded a very difficult military and political alliance of cantankerous personalities.
Let me ask this question. At the moment of birth do we know whether one baby is a leader and one is not? The answer to that question is no. All babies have the same reactions and make the same sounds. From the moment of birth these babies are then conditioned by their parents and events around them and their interactions with others. It is safe to say that leaders developed and were shaped by events that helped them become great leaders.
If we can identify two people with the same characteristics so easily, why does one succeed and the other fall short in leadership? Part of the answer comes in understanding ourselves and having the self-awareness to learn and grow. Self-awareness, ironically, requires input from others. If you are serious about improving your own leadership here is an exercise that you should do.
First, I want you to jot down leadership traits, and indicate whether you think they are a strength or weakness for you. Next, take this challenge that will help you grow. Go to your colleagues, co-workers, those you supervise, and those who manage you. If you are a solo entrepreneur you can also get feedback from your clients and vendors. Ask them what they feel is your biggest leadership challenge and what you can do to improve it. This is known as 360 feedback.
Another reason why people aren’t better leaders comes down having the courage to take action and go for the RESULTS. As one of the blog mentioned of the leaders of 9/11, and there were many, they mustered courage and took ACTION to get those results of bringing others to safety in the face of danger.
How does that relate to leadership in business? In your business leadership, as in your life, you can change and improve your traits but the real challenge and commitment comes from having the discipline and perseverance to change your old habits and behaviors.
Each person who grabbed the leadership role on 9/11, had many different even contradictory traits but they leveraged those traits to achieve their RESULT which was to help and save others and show the world that America stands strong and united.
Leaders are NOT born they are made. You can be a great leader in your business and in your life.