This is a post from a year ago that I think is appropriate for the current times, when we are still seeking leaders to rise up and be counted. Let me know what you think!
Experience isn’t the best teacher, it’s the only teacher. ~Albert Schweitzer
My last post, A Chance Meeting at the Airport, caused a considerable amount of comment from my dedicated readers and even others. I am pleased to have put out a topic that we all feel so strongly about and where we can learn from each other’s ideas, experiences and points-of-view. To me, it is times like this when a blog is really doing its job.
Basically, the discussion centres around whether or not leadership can be taught. We are not discussing the age-old question of are leaders made or born. I think that has been answered a long time ago: leaders are made, not born. However, our discussion centres on just how leaders are made.
In my blog I put forth the argument that “Leadership can’t be taught, but it can be learned!”
Let me elaborate further. Teaching leadership to a class of students, or even giving a seminar on leadership to executives is about as effective in developing leaders as reading a cookbook is in developing chefs. It’s not the information, it’s the doing that develops skills, and leadership is a skill set, just as being a chef demands a skill set. Listening to an entertaining and informative lecture, or even reading one of the many books on leadership does not develop leaders, it builds a library of information. We know more about leadership, but we don’t do more with it. That’s the problem and why I believe that leadership can’t be taught. They teach Ethics is law school and business school, yet we have more and more politicians and executives who don’t act ethically.
Learning and leadership are indispensable from each other. ~John F. Kennedy
Leadership can’t be taught, but it can be learned. And learning leadership is akin to learning any other skill. Beyond the knowledge of the subject, there must be an appetite for being a leader, and the courage to act in accordance with the principles of leadership gained from the teaching. Too may people attend a course on leadership or an executive seminar on leadership taught by some of the best known leaders and walk out the door more informed, but not committed to being a leader. In fact, they wind up with clever quotes and examples yet still avoid putting themselves in situations that call for real leadership.
Consider the CEOs of the “big banks” and their lack of leadership during the global financial crisis. Since when did bailouts without internal changes become a leadership principle? Consider the current situation of American Airlines. Since when did declaring bankruptcy become a business leadership strategy?
Becoming a leader.
For those with the courage and commitment to being a leader, very little teaching is required. They learn by doing; through experience, not words. They are the ones that volunteer for all the crappy jobs inside the company. They join the teams trying to solve the biggest problems. They take on the assignment of cleaning up a troubled division. They don’t go to a leadership seminar, they go to work. They learn from other leaders who have faced difficult situations and they internalize these lessons. Do they always win? Nope. Do they always learn something invaluable about leadership and themselves. Absolutely. Do they grow their leadership “muscles”? Definitely.
Don’t read a book or go to a seminar, let your life’s work be the book that someone else reads and the seminar others attend.
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress