Can leadership be learned?

We believe that while some people may be more naturally inclined to lead, good leadership can be learned.

One of the things that gets in the way of many people leading is a popular misconception that effective leaders must possess some special leadership DNA. This view has come about because the leaders that easily spring to mind are those that have brought about some type of heroic change. The Ghandis, the Churchills, the Nightingales, the Martin Luther Kings of the world. In business, the leaders that easily come to mind are those that actively court publicity and notoriety – people such as Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch, and Donald Trump. Effective leadership therefore becomes associated with having a high profile and charismatic personality.

While the world occasionally needs heroic leaders, 99% of leadership isn’t about heroic acts carried out in the public eye. The leadership that keeps the world moving is carried out by ordinary people removed from the public spotlight. These people have no special leadership chromosome.

As Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great reveals, research shows the primary characteristics of leaders of great companies are humility and determination.  Our experience is similar. In the last 15 years we have worked with many great leaders. Very few are larger than life characters. Once the myth of “leadership DNA” is exposed it has a truly liberating effect. It opens up the possibility that everyone can be a leader.

With the possibility of leadership now real for people, there are key leadership skills to be learnt. In Catapult Leadership we develop heart, head, and hand leadership skills.

The Heart of Good Leadership

The heart of good leadership is all about having high self-awareness and emotional and social intelligence. In other words, knowing your strengths and weaknesses and having the ability to recognise the emotional needs of others.  Leaders high in emotional and social intelligence are adept at picking up on other people’s behavioural and emotional clues. They use these clues to discern other people’s emotional moods and needs and respond appropriately. Conversely, leaders with low emotional intelligence do not read these invisible clues. They risk running roughshod over others, blissfully unaware of the negative impact they can have.

While some people are naturally gifted with high self-awareness and emotional and social intelligence, these attributes can be developed through exposure to tools such as the DISC Behavioural Styles framework. Such tools give leaders insights into their preferred behavioural styles and personality traits. Once aware of their styles and strengths and weaknesses, leaders can adapt their approach to build on strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.

The Head of Good Leadership

To be effective, leaders must also intellectually know how to do things. This is the head of leadership. Effective leaders are in the business of future-proofing their team or organisation. This requires leaders be forward-looking and think strategically. They must look beyond the here and now to see where the team or organisation needs to go if it is to remain relevant to customers and stakeholders. Leaders must also provide or generate the strategic thinking that will guide the team or organisation to this new future.

The Hand of Good Leadership

Effective leaders must also make sure things get done. Leaders must delegate, motivate and coach people. Leaders must also be able to have challenging conversations and must make timely and effective decisions.

Catapult leadership programmes equip people with frameworks and tools to navigate the head, heart and hand of effective leadership.

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