Leadership Can Be Learned

I am frequently asked and often challenged by being asked “Can leadership really be learned?” In response to my reply that it can be learned I am usually then asked “What about natural leaders then?” In reply I usually ask “What about natural sportsmen and sportswomen?” Given we state quite clearly our definition of leadership is “the ability to influence and motivate others to perform successfully and achieve” then we are considering leadership as an ability which, in turn, implies understanding, knowledge and skill are required to be able to exercise the ability to full effect. Even the most talented and skilled sports people, speakers, artisans, practitioners of whatever kind undergo some level of training and development, no matter what degree of innate talent they posses. Similarly, all who participate in such activities at whatever level usually require teaching and or training to some extent. The one thing I do caveat my reply to the initial question is simply this; a potential leader needs to want to be a leader. Try teaching someone who doesn’t want to play football the skills of the game – it doesn’t work well at all and they tend to avoid playing the game by fair means or foul (no pun intended). The same is true for leadership. The surest route to poor leadership and the harm it does is to promote people to leadership positions they don’t want , the problems this causes can be multiplied significantly by not training them appropriately. My question to many of the HR directors, MDs, CEOs and business owners of this world is simply “Why do you do it?”. In anticipation, I would add; the desire for more income is not the same thing as the desire to lead. Leadership can be learned and it is easiest learned and best applied by those who do want to lead.

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