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.
“Every leader should routinely keep a substantial portion of his or her time—I would say as much as 50 percent—unscheduled. … Only when you have substantial ’slop’ in your schedule—unscheduled time—will you have the space to reflect on what you are doing, learn from experience, and recover from your inevitable mistakes. Leaders without such free time end up tackling issues only when there is an immediate or visible problem. Managers’ typical response to my argument about free time is, ‘That’s all well and good, but there are things I have to do.’ Yet we waste so much time in unproductive activity—it takes an enormous effort on the part of the leader to keep free time for the truly important things.” – Dov Frohman
Making time to reflect and think is a critical leadership practice. In its simplest form, reflecting is just thinking about what happened. It’s the process of thinking about and examining what we’ve experienced, how we reacted and what changes we need to make to become more effective.
A leaders life experiences create the personal capacity they need to lead. Our experiences shape us and make us, our experiences have a profound affect on our worldview as leaders. Consider the following story from the biography of Winston Churchill as told in the book “Winston Spencer Churchill: The Last Lion, Visions of Glory”:
“Sickly, an uncoordinated weakling with the pale fragile hands of a girl, speaking with a lisp and a slight stutter, he had been at the mercy of bullies. They beat him, ridiculed him, and pelted him with cricket balls. Trembling and humiliated, he hid in a nearby woods. This was hardly the stuff of which gladiators are made.”
Could this experience have given Churchill the determination to lead the charge against Hitler during the second world war?