In discussions regarding leadership, I am often asked, “Are leaders made or born?” When asked this question, I often quip, “Both. I have never met a leader who wasn’t born;” however, I quickly follow that up with the fact that I am a firm believer that leadership is not something innate, but is learned behavior. The obvious question then is “if leadership is learned behavior, how does one learn it?” and the answer is “the same way any other behavior is learned.” That being the case, let’s explore how leadership is actually learned.
Through Personal Experience
You can learn through trial and error. Former major league pitcher Vernon Law suggested “Experience is the best teacher because she gives the test first and the lessons afterwards.” Every leader learns through experience. Leadership is often going where no one has gone before and blazing the trail. That is part of what makes a leader a leader. In fact, one thing that makes a great leader is the ability to learn from one’s mistakes. While the lessons learned in the “School of Hard Knocks” are usually learned well, learning this way has some disadvantages. If you are only learning through your own experiences, then your knowledge is going to be quite limited, it is going to take you a longer period of time to learn to be effective and the only way you are going to learn is the hard way.