Are leaders born or made? Are people natural leaders? Can you teach leadership? Do we change over time?
For every John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan there are countless unsung heroes who have developed their leadership capabilities over time. In fact, these two presidents are widely known to have developed their skills while in office; Kennedy did this in a relatively short period of time, while Reagan developed at a somewhat advanced age, at a time that we say "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."
Leadership is a teachable, trainable skill. We lead from the front, from the middle, and from behind. A half century of leadership research has made clear one point: there is no one best style of leadership.
My, what a strange world we live in. On Thursday night we can watch Donald Trump glorify autocratic leadership, say "you're fired" with joy, and call leaders who consult their team or delegate "indecisive." Then on Sunday evening we see CEOs who want to learn about their people, working at menial jobs to see what true contribution is, and understand what it takes to make their organizations perform well.
These are of course caricatures. "The Donald" must reward, motivate, and even nurture (he must, mustn't he sometimes?) his people. And Undercover Bosses return to their own reality of everyday decision making.
That leads us to a sports leader of the 20th century, John Wooden, who led UCLA to a record number of NCAA basketball championships. It has been said that Wooden, when asked by a CEO what his greatest achievement was, replied that becoming Academic All American was at the top for him. When the questionner wondered about leading his team to all those championships, Wooden calmly replied, "I didn't make a single shot. The boys did all that."
The Who got it right with their great 1978 song and album. At the Portland Leadership Institute we firmly believe that you must understand yourself before you can lead others effectively. The ancient Greeks knew this; prior to entering the Temple at Delphi to listen to the wisdom of the Oracle, citizens were admonished to "Know Thyself." We take this to heart. We have found the DiSC to be the most effective assessment of one's behavioral style, and use that with all our clients. We provide extensive feedback to our clients, and encourage teammates to discuss individual behavior and perceptions among themselves.