There has been a debate for years about what makes a leader. This debate has resulted in two schools of thought. One school proposes that leaders are made from a select few unique of individuals, born with a rare set of leadership abilities – leaders are born. The other school of thought proposes that leaders are made, that we learn, grow and develop into leaders – leaders are made.
”In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time — literally — substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.” – Peter Drucker, “Managing Knowledge Means Managing Oneself”, Leader to Leader, No. 16 Spring 2000
In Ancient Greece the philosopher Socrates famously stated at his trial, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. This quote from Socrates comes from Plato’s Apology and is his recollection of the speech Socrates gave to defend himself at his trial. Socrates was accused of not recognising the gods and corrupting the youth of Athens by encouraging them to challenge accepted beliefs and to think for themselves.
What’s the greatest challenge faced by any leader?
It’s leading yourself!
Most leadership failure is the result of poor self-leadership. Leading yourself – personal leadership – is the most important tasks of any leader. It’s the most important set of practices a leader can develop.
You are leading by example all the time whether we like it or not. People always look to the leader to set the example. During times of turbulence the is a greater need for leaders to step out, to lead from the front, to show the way. This requires that that leader be an example. Too many leaders forget how important this is especially during uncertain and turbulent times.
There is no one size fits all set of leadership traits that make for great leaders. So stop looking! You cannot create cookie cut leaders based on some template of traits that leaders should or should not possess. When reading and studying all that is written on leadership it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there is a right and wrong way to lead, that their is a right and wrong set of traits for leaders.
Ideas form the basis of great leadership! John Boyd was famous for his emphasis on “people, ideas and technology. In that order”. Successful leadership is founded on a core set of ideas concerning who we are, where are we going and as set of values and principles that guides our journey. Together this forms a leadership philosophy expressed in our choices, action and behaviour.