Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Leaders – are they born or made? A viewpoint from Potential2Achieve.

It’s a question that has been debated by some of the greatest experts on Leadership for many years, often resulting in polarised opinion. Let’s start by quoting Dr Brent Smith, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School who, when asked the question by MBA students and members of the press seeking learned opinion, will reply with “well, it’s a little difficult to make a leader unless he or she has been born!” Of course, Brent will then follow that statement with the output of his analytical research and sage advice.

Here at Potential2Achieve we too have an opinion on this topic. At the heart of Potential2Achieve values we believe that there is untapped wisdom and capability within everyone that is waiting to be discovered and applied. So, in that context, of course leaders are made. It is very tempting to say at this point “but it all depends” because in reality there is a dependency on the organisation that the leader is a part of to have defined what makes a leader.

In our experience organisations are generally very good at setting the expectations of their leaders in terms of their managerial output. For example, Performance Management process completed on time and in alignment with a set distribution curve, Employee Engagement survey results to improve x% year on year. However, rarely do organisations define what they require in behavioural terms from their leaders and it is rarer still that organisations align those behaviours to their external brand.

At Potential2Achieve when working with organisations to assist the process of developing leaders we start with understanding the external brand. What are the beliefs and values that underpin that brand? How do leaders, at all levels in the organisation need to behave to be role-models of that brand? Do the policies, practices and procedures of the organisation support and contribute to the value of the brand? Do the people within the organisation have the skills, capability and knowledge to bring the brand to life? Once the leader can understand the leadership “system” they are working within, they can then evaluate for themselves if they wish to be a leader. If there is a match between the core values of the organisation and the core values of the leader then the making of the leader is a much simpler matter.

Tell us about your experiences of leadership systems and your views on whether leaders are born or made.