“Affecting its surface”

In my first article when launching StormBlog, I deliberately italicized the words affecting its surface in a citation from Wikipedia describing the meaning of the word ‘Storm’. As I briefly explained in the article, my attention to ‘surface’ does not imply that I think of my three areas of interest (leadership, organization & communication) to be accommodated superficially and ONLY have to do with “surface” – but that all three comprises inherent as well as acquired properties. But what do I mean with this? I think the discussion is valid within all three areas mentioned above, which I’ll return to another time – but for illustration the example with leadership makes most sense.

ARE you or do/can you LEARN to be a leader?

Over the years there have been a countless number of cases, discussions and articles centering the question whether the ability to conduct leadership is innate and hence inherent in the individual in question, or if it is something you can learn via education, courses, mentoring and/or experience. I don’t think it’s as easy as one or the other, but rather an intertwined combination of the two.

Leadership: A combination of inherent and acquired properties

Let’s be honest – it’s not common that people are like (or get the same leader or saint-like attributes projected as) Steve Jobs or Gandhi. Let’s remove these unique cases from the equation as this is “food for thought” to common people, managers and leaders.
Leadership is not for anyone – what I mean here is that not anyone can or should lead others. For the linguistic creatives it could also express that not all people should be led – that’s another discussion which will be covered in a future article.

Leadership really is not for anyone: No matter how complex, abstract or challenging a curriculum one have been dragged through during university, or which further education in form of an MBA or similar from even the most twinkling institution, the person is not entitled to possess a leadership responsibility right after studies og at a later point – they might be, but it’s not a given.

Eventhough you have read everything there is to read about leadership, it does not mean that you have the personality (or want) to make people perform and truly lead (staying true to the concept of StormConnect, I’m referring to establish connections between humans that are essential for what I think is real leadership – including personal relationships, empathy, understanding of psychological aspects, etc.).

Conversely, I don’t think that a good personality equals great leadership.

“But I had a boss back in 19XX who was fantastic, and he/she didn’t have any leadership training!”.

First, my perspective on leadership is contemporary – both due to my age and since I don’t think it’s value-adding to look back (unless it’s a comparison which is not the objective here). (The execution of) Leading people today is different compared to earlier, e.g. due to employees’ educational level, digitization & disruption, independency and possibilities. “So people didn’t have education or possibilities earlier?” Yes, they did – but in general, these things are more pronounced anno 2016 – it’s a new sociological reality. Hence it’s crucial for today’s managers and leaders to have professional training and/or sparring, as people cannot see everything themselves.

As I wrote above, “The execution of leading people today is different” – but not the underlying premise. I’ll discuss this in an article on LinkedIn, right here.

The second thing about the “fantastic boss from 19XX” is that there’re always contradicting examples, but then we can go back to cases with Jobs and Gandhi again.

My conclusion is that leadership comprises inherent as well as acquired properties. This is where the surface metaphor makes sense – whether you nurture the strong aspects of your inherent properties or acquire new ones through sparring, it will affect the “surface” of you leadership – how you come off and can influence people.

Challenging?

You might find yourself to be a nice person with a good understanding of your employees, you’ve studied for a fine degree and have also built upon that with extra courses – but still things aren’t really working out for you in your leadership. If leadership was only about the you – the leader – it wouldn’t be that challenging a job.

The leadership equation also entails the followers, as they’re all different and hence requires leadership accordingly (I write about the concept of worldviews in another article – read part 1 and part 2 on LinkedIn) which adds a dimension to the leadership task.

And to complicate leadership another notch, the followers are not the only thing influencing. The concepts of contextual and situational leadership (and the difference between them) will be covered in a(nother) future article, as “good leadership” is not the same in different places – and hence cannot be mastered only engaging with academic litterature, which has a fairly normative approach.

See for instance more about the trinity of the leader, followers and context in a LinkedIn post on different worldviews.

I will get back to the intricate combination of leadership in coming articles – but what do you think? Inherent, acquired or a combination of properties?

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