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Born or Made? The Role of Nature and Nurture in Developing Leadership Skills

By Keith Orlean

What makes a great leader?

Leadership is crucial for success in all areas of life, whether it's running a business, a nonprofit, or a professional sports team. Great leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate those around them to achieve a common goal, while also showing through example what it means to lead. However, the question of what makes a great leader is complex and multifaceted.

What qualities do great leaders have in common?

Great leaders communicate a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and effectively convey it to team members. A leader who can articulate their vision and effectively communicate it to their team will find greater success in achieving their goals. In addition, a leader must be willing to be accountable regardless of the outcome. Leaders who take responsibility for their actions and decisions can earn the trust and respect of their team members and inspire them to take ownership as well.

Another important trait of a great leader is the willingness to be understanding to the challenges of others and to be empathetic. Without empathy, it's difficult to get your team to consistently respond positively to your message. An empathetic leader sets an example to others and creates a positive environment throughout the organization. Leaders who recognize and acknowledge the needs and concerns of their team members can create a sense of trust and acceptance, which can lead to increased productivity and better results.

Leaders develop their skills in many ways, some of which happen naturally over a period of time. Becoming a great leader may be easier for those who are born with that inherent skill. However, for most people, leadership skills are built over many years of working in multiple capacities and showing upper management that they continue to thrive when they are given more responsibility. Leaders are rarely limited in their desire to learn what it takes to achieve a leadership position. They have shown that whatever role they are placed in they exceed expectations by learning quickly and mastering that particular responsibility. They tend to rise above those they work with and are rewarded accordingly.

It's also possible to have a natural tendency towards leadership, but without proper training and willingness to continue learning, they may not reach their potential. There are also some that do not have natural leadership traits but develop the necessary skills to become a strong leader through hard work, experience, and dedication. Therefore, it can be said that both nature and nurture play a role in the development of strong leaders.

Having worked with and spoken to many people in leadership positions throughout my career, it became obvious to me that not every leader came to their position in the same way. It's not uncommon for people with natural leadership abilities to be ignored in their current position of employment, and when they leave and go to another organization new leadership quickly recognizes their talents and nurtures them into a leadership role. Once they are promoted, they may also seek out opportunities to further develop their skills and knowledge to become even more effective as a leader.

Leading by Example

Leading by example is critical to being an effective leader. Good leaders set the tone through their actions. They also are willing to share their knowledge and experience without fear that they will be diminished by others seeking to grow. Leaders who don't practice what they preach or fail to communicate what they expect from their team members can quickly lose the respect and trust of their team. Leaders who lead by example not only inspire their team members to be their best but also create a culture of trust and respect that can lead to long-term success.

Why do some Leaders Fail?

The biggest failure of leaders can vary depending on the situation, but in general, there are some common failures that can significantly impact their ability to effectively lead . Some of the most significant failures of leaders include a lack of communication, accountability, vision, adaptability, empathy, and integrity. A leader who fails to communicate effectively can create confusion, misunderstandings, and mistrust among team members. Similarly, a leader who fails to hold themselves and their team members accountable can create a culture of complacency and low standards. Lack of vision can result in a team that lacks direction and motivation, while the inability to adapt to changing circumstances can result in missed opportunities and ultimately, failure. Finally, a leader who lacks empathy for their team members can create a toxic work environment with low morale, and high turnover rates. And without integrity, a leader's actions can be seen as disingenuous, and team members may lose faith in their ability to lead. Ultimately, the biggest failure of a leader is the failure to achieve their goals and bring out the best in their team.

In conclusion, great leaders possess traits such as clear communication, accountability, and empathy. While some may have natural leadership abilities, skills can also be developed through experience and hard work. However, leaders must also avoid common pitfalls such as a lack of vision or integrity to achieve their goals and inspire their teams. Ultimately, strong leaders are able to bring out the best in their team members and achieve their goals through hard work, dedication, and leading by example.


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