Is there such a thing as a natural leader? Is leadership an innate set of skills, abilities and characteristics that only a few people possess? Or, can leadership skills be taught, fostered and developed in everyone?
Over the years, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people say that some individual is a natural leader. I’ve even said it myself to students I’ve worked and employees I’ve managed. The intent is positive, but is the outcome? Are we fostering the type of personal growth we want to see, or are we labeling leadership as something fixed and finite?
Fixed Versus Growth Mindset
Research initially conducted by Carol Dweck in the field of education has begun to be carried over into the world of work. When we praise achievement rather than effort, we encourage a fixed mindset which can be described as “The belief that intelligence, ability, and skill are inborn and relatively fixed–we “have” what we were born with. People with a fixed mindset typically say things like ‘I’m just not that smart’ or ‘Math is not my thing.'”
When we encourage effort over achievement we foster a growth mindset in employees which is “The belief that intelligence, ability, and skill can be developed through effort–we are what we work to become. People with a growth mindset typically say things like “With a little more time, I’ll get it” or “That’s OK. I’ll give it another try.” (Source)
Within a growth mindset, leadership skills, like math or writing or machine operation can be taught and developed. When we only recognize, develop or promote people who have those skills already, we are missing significant opportunities to grow powerful leaders who will have an impact on the company for years to come. We also often narrowly define what a leader is, which can have an impact on the culture of the organization and its ability to tackle wide-ranging challenges and opportunities.
Examining Our Beliefs
When you hear the term “natural leader” what are the first five words that come to mind? Are they all positive? Are they inclusive of different styles, backgrounds and beliefs? Are they limiting to the type of person who can fill that framework?
When we are open to the idea that leadership skills can be taught we also open ourselves to more possible leaders. We see potential in people whom in the past would have been overlooked because of expectations or bias. When we open leadership up to new groups of people, we open new opportunities for growth for our organizations. Diverse and inclusive teams, with diverse and inclusive leaders, are more poised to face the challenges of our changing marketplaces.
There are people who naturally tend to end up in leadership positions. There are also people whose leadership skills are more developed than others. Working as an Authorized Partner of Everything DiSC® has given me insight about the personality traits of people who consistently find themselves leading. But, if we choose to look deeper, and develop the leadership skills of the people at all levels of the organization our teams will be stronger and the organization will perform better.
True North promotes organizational, individual and team growth through challenging, fun and relevant activities and processes. Contact us today to discuss leadership development programs that will have long-term impact.