A friend of mine recently remarked about how surprised he was that, despite the immense literature to date on the topic, the practice of leadership remained, in his view, mediocre at best. This is a remark I have heard over and over again, and which has probably existed since the beginning of leadership! He went on to conclude that: to him, leadership was an innate talent which you either had, or hadn’t. It was a done deal for him: you don’t learn leadership; You’re either born with it or you’re not! Good luck to the billions spent by corporations world-wide on leadership development programs, every year! Thank you for the insight and the wisdom, but I beg to differ.
Yes, leadership is, first and foremost, an innate talent. Yet, it is a talent which, in my opinion, we are all born with. Let me explain: In Christianity, God created mankind in His own image … ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ … (Genesis, 1:27). In Islam, God breathed into man of His spirit … وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِي … (Quran, 15:29). Does that not imply that “greatness” is a default human setting? Does that not imply that greatness or, at least, the potential to be great is an innate quality that exists within each and every one of us? At the very least, this implies that humans occupy a higher order because we alone are imprinted with a godlike essence. And, if leadership isn’t part of that godlike essence, what is? It follows naturally, then, that to discover our true selves, attain our true potentials and exercise our dominion over God’s creations, we must endeavour to seek out our abilities and fully develop and express the potential that God breathed into us.
But, why then aren’t we all leaders? Why don’t we all shine in that area? Why, as John put it, “aren’t we all great leaders, why aren’t we all billionaires, why aren’t we all scratch golfers, why can’t we all grow up to be president one day?”
Over time (particularly during childhood), this innate quality gets buried so deep within most of us that we barely acknowledge its existence any more. This is mainly due to internal and external abrasive influences to do mainly with family, friends, school, work, society, ethics, conformity, …etc. As a result, most of us lose touch with our inner selves, lose sight of our true callings and succumb to the roles laid out for us by society which are usually meaningless, non-fulfilling and, in no way, meant to cultivate leadership qualities. As a result, most people go through life blissfully ignorant of how great they truly are and what tremendous potential they carry within them. They need to rediscover their greatness …
In comes leadership development, and in comes that most precocious of human beings; the gifted teacher. To some he goes by the name of “coach,” to others he is “mentor,” “guide,” “facilitator,” “instructor” or “trainer.” To yet others, he is “father,” “priest,” “rabi” or “imam.” Yet, one thing is for sure, he is a truly unique breed with the singular ability to take others on a journey of self-discovery and realignment. It is his calling. The gifted teacher is uniquely positioned to help us probe, unlock and win back our innate qualities; simultaneously releasing us from our ignorance. Yet let’s be clear on one thing, leadership nirvana is rarely achieved within the contexts of formal classroom-based, leadership development programs. More often than not, it blossoms in much more informal and unconventional settings.
In conclusion, the moral to my argument leads me towards a potential answer to the age-old conundrum: Are leaders born or made? From my perspective; leaders are both born and made. That is because we are all “born” with that innate talent, that innate quality, we keep referring to as leadership. But for most of us, and before the time comes for that quality to be called into active duty, it has usually become so deeply hidden within us that it has to be rediscovered, dug out and resuscitated. Dependent on the depths to which it has been submerged and drowned, many need to be “remade” to realize their true potentials; to rediscover their greatness; to reconnect with their inner and true selves; to become the leaders God meant them to be. That takes a lot of truly inspirational work and developmental effort and that, my friends, is where the gifted teachers of the world make all the difference!!
I believe, John, that “we aren’t all great leaders, we aren’t all billionaires and we aren’t all scratch golfers” because for most of us, we haven’t yet discovered, or tapped into, that vast well of “greatness” we were all born with. We haven’t had the opportunity to be taken down self-discovery boulevard in an attempt to rediscover our potential and realign our values and beliefs. You can’t have true leadership without going down that journey of self-discovery and realignment.
As to “growing up to be the president one day” … Who Knows?
Comments highly appreciated …