First I want to say that being a leader requires the ability to get people to follow you. Sounds elementary and obvious, but to really create a following you must poses certain skills and charisma that make people feel they are following something that will either benefit them or a cause they believe in. For the purpose of this article, lets focus in on the ability to lead people in the common goal of creating a prosperous business. Second, if someone asks you if a leader is born or made, slap them and ask if they have a more cliché question. Then slap them again. It’s a trick question and I will answer this once and for all later on.
Empower the people you are leading with the tools, ideas and goals that will enable them to succeed. If this is done well, they will come back for more and hence a perpetual series of ideas, tasks, and goals will start to reach completion in a timely and manageable way.
Once upon a time early in my professional life, I worked on Wall Street. I was young and impressionable and ended up at a real schlock house slinging crappy stock to people who bought a great story and a dream. Eventually, their money and my experience became the schlock firms money and my client’s experience. I committed to a year at this job and exactly one year later handed in my resignation sighting that after one year I still didn’t understand how our clients could ever make money under these circumstances.
I tell the above embarrassing story because the owner of the firm I was working at was an incredible leader. At some point in his life, he decided to use his unique skills to rip people off, but just the same, he was a leader of an army of home grown brokers that for the most part would walk into a burning building because he was able to make them believe it was in their best interest. Scary, true and surely not the first or last of his kind. He later went to jail and had to pay back $100 million in damages. Karma…F him!
That was my first and last boss and the only reference I have to an effective leader who was also my manager. I wish I could tell you a story about my boss and great leader, Jack Welch from GE or Sumner Redstone from Viacom or Lee Iacocca who turned Chrysler around, but no such luck. I can tell you I have enjoyed their books and speeches over the years among others in their class of leader and they all have very similar stories. Love what you do, have a passion to succeed, surround yourself with those that have skillsets greater than yours, be approachable, and above all have a plan of action to follow.
All good leaders know they need good managers in order to lead successfully. Great leaders have great vision and the managers they choose help them realize these great visions. The difference between a great leader and an okay leader is his or her ability to pick the right people around them in order to execute a well laid out plan of action.
Once an effective leader has their managers buying into the vision it would be a difficult task to stop them from accomplishing what was set out to be done. Often it is the leader who gets the praise for doing such a good job, but great feats have rarely been accomplished without a dedicated group of managers and workers to help accomplish a common goal.
Leaders inherently know the above and once perfected move on briskly and accomplish exponentially more as time goes on.
There is another tell tail sign to spot a leader. Sometimes you can see it in their eyes and sometimes it takes a minute or two of speaking with them that gives it away. This trait is a special brand of fearlessness. Sometimes it is because they do not know any better and have a sort of throw caution to the wind, winner takes all personality that is somehow energetic to be around, but most of the time they have their eye on the prize and a myopic view of the finish line. I believe people are predisposed to following this type of person. Since the beginning of time, people have looked for something in someone else that made sense enough to them to feel comfortable following. All pack animals have a leader and humans are certainly no exception.
BTW, the answer to the cliché question in the second paragraph is, BOTH. Yes, an uninteresting and bland answer at best. This is why you must start slapping people that ask this question. Lets make it a better world where people ask important questions with actual answers please. Certain qualities are definitely good to have out of the gate and certainly some social stigmatisms would have us follow a superhero lookalike before we follow a slovenly, hunchback with bad breath if they both possessed the same skillset. That being said, some leaders are born and others hone their skills after years of experience, self-development, education, and training.
- Robert Stillman, Founder/CEO/Handsome Bastard of Farfromboring Promotions