October 2010 Newsletter

Myth: Leadership Can’t Be Taught

October 2010 Newsletter ImageI will never forget my 8th grade English teacher telling us that “I can teach you grammar and punctuation, but I can’t teach you how to be a good writer, being a good writer just comes from within.” Some had the magic and some didn’t.

Well, I don’t know how much 8th grade English teachers have changed, but I do know that the myth of “innate qualities” that distinguish some from others is alive and well in the business world, particularly when discussing leadership. Can it be taught? Or is it just some quality that someone already has?

This question is particularly critical for one of my clients who is trying to assess whether or not one of his employees has the leadership skills necessary to take their department to the next level. Part of the challenge is defining what qualities my client was looking for in a “leader.” For him it meant someone who leads people rather than follows, inspires others to act, thinks strategically and has just plain common sense.

There are all kinds of “leadership assessment” tools out there, many of which are effective and I recommend to my clients so they can do a targeted evaluation of their employees’ potential. One author, Michael Beck, uses a tool that measures 12 Emotional Intelligence (EI) qualities, with five of them being specific to leadership skills

(see: http://www.michaeljbeck.com/articles/842http://www.michaeljbeck.com/articles/842 )

1) Coaching and Mentoring

2) Inspirational Leadership
3) Influence
4) Conflict Management, and
5) Teamwork and Collaboration

Beck then examines each of the categories in detail, which is worth taking the time to read.

Beyond the EI assessment, though, what I like about this article is that it changes the language that we’re used to hearing in this discussion. Can a leader be “trained” or “taught?” Both of these words indicate a one-way process from coach or teacher to the blank slate of the employee, and imply using a specific, pre-defined training or curriculum. And if they don’t get it….they never will get it.

But what if we change the language to “developing” a leader? If you read my blogs (http://successtrek.blogspot.comhttp://successtrek.blogspot.com) and other newsletters, you’ll already know that I believe in the power of language. It can completely change how we understand the world around us. “Developing” a leader implies more of a two-way process that leverages the best of what the employee already has to offer and focuses on developing those skills specific to leadership. It introduces the notion of “potential,” breaking down that black and white myth of “you either have it or you don’t.”

What about you. Have you got it, or did someone help you develop it? How does introducing the words “development” and “potential,” change the way you look at leadership?


We can help you and your team to develop leadership skills. 

The Success Trek team is ready to talk! Sit down with us and we will listen to your issues and challenges. To find out about your proverbial first step, contact Theresa Valade at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 219-680-7720. 

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