I am often asked about whether leaders are born or trained. I personally despise the use of the word training when it comes to developing leaders. I think we train animals … we educate leaders. Yes, leaders can be developed. However, if a leader has the skills but doesn’t understand what it means to lead others … the education doesn’t resolve the issue. Leaders need to understand that Leading Others is a Privilege.
And yet, leadership training classes are filled with 1000’s of people who have been in a leadership position, sometimes for more than 10 years, and still don’t understand what it fundamentally means to lead others.
(An excerpt from Joe’s Latest book, Extraordinary Results, Mastering the Art of Leading, Coaching, & Influencing, Others)
When you look at how most companies select leaders, it is a rather simple process.
We take an individual contributor who is a great performer (because they achieved great results), offer them more money, a more prestigious title, and a bigger office or cubicle. We don’t always have a great vetting process in place because we are in a hurry, so we end up putting a body in a position instead of a person with a true desire to lead. A survey conducted by Development Dimensions International Inc. of more than 1,100 leaders across the United States said that more than fifty percent of managers took their promotion for the increase in compensation. The hope in selecting this high performer is that as a new leader they will achieve the same results they did as an individual contributor…only times ten.
If we don’t offer leadership training and we assume the leader will develop their leadership skills on their own, we magnify the problem. We may assume they already know how to Lead, Coach, and Influence Others, or that they will learn on their own and figure it all out on their own. The negative impact of all of these decisions, however, may not surface until months or even years down the road.
The worst possible outcome of a poorly trained leader who doesn’t understand that being a leader is a privilege occurs when the leader feels that they are qualified to lead simply because they were successful as an individual contributor and have earned their stripes. This belief leads to a foundational disconnect to the true meaning of the word leader. It is also the most ineffective style of leadership because it implies that “I am qualified to lead and my title commands that you do what I say.” This can be seen in organizations all over the world, and is more prevalent in family businesses where the son or daughter is next in line to lead, regardless of their experience or qualifications. The current leadership in North Korea is a perfect example of this concept and exemplifies the true devastation of an entitled leader. If you hold the pseudo-belief that you can control others just based on your title or position—you’re in for a big surprise. If you believe people will follow you or must follow you because of your title or position — you’re in for an even bigger surprise.
These types of managers or supervisors don’t understand that leadership is truly a privilege. They fail to understand that the true job of a leader is to develop their team as individuals. It isn’t about doing the work themselves…it is about influencing their team to do the work and to get the work done through their team — not over or around them. Telling them what to do will not work, but guiding them and using The Art of Leading, Coaching, and Influencing, and asking great questions can work. Scalability is the ability to scale up to the level of work and the results which you are responsible for delivering. The higher you go, the greater the expectation and the greater the results you must deliver. And you can’t do that on your own. You have to leverage all of your talent through all of your team members and get them to perform at their highest level. If your team doesn’t trust you, and if they believe that your leadership is all about you and not about them, you simply won’t scale up to the next level.
When you come to the realization that being entrusted with the weight and responsibility of developing people and bringing out the best in them, you will realize that being a leader is not easy! At times it may be the most difficult thing you have ever done in your life besides raising your children. It requires dedication and a commitment: a commitment so strong that you have to lean in so far that you can’t go back. It means that if you don’t feel called to be a leader, you will not weather the storms very well when they arrive. And storms always occur. If you don’t feel called to be a leader, then I don’t suggest that you follow the path to leadership.