Leadership: Who’s Trainable?

Posted On: March 5, 2014 by: Kevin Leonard

The ubiquitous question: Can anybody be trained (or better phrased, learn) to become a leader? From my perspective – NO! Many yes, possibly most, but not anybody.

Another way of asking the question: Who’s trainable and who’s not?

The prerequisite to this entire topic is about intent; given a potential leadership candidate, do they want to become or have the motivation to become a leader of people? This is often forgotten or ignored in the effort of promoting employees into the management ranks.

Given the starting point of a motivated leadership candidate, the following characteristics establish the best scenario for success:

  1. Introspection:  Becoming a leader is a process of learning and development that requires an individual to be open minded about their strengths and weaknesses. This not only requires the ability to accept criticism but to seek out feedback proactively.
  2. Willing to listen and learn:  Growing into a leadership role requires a person to be coachable. Learning from a great leader is a highly rewarding and unforgettable experience.
  3. Big picture thinker:  In addition to having industry expertise, leaders need to place emphasis on finding balance cross-functionally and in relation to organizational objectives and goals.
  4. Responsive versus reactionary:  Running any business is an endless string of solving problems, resolving conflict, and meeting challenges. Leaders set the tone to ensure the best result.
  5. Perspective as a follower:  Leaders start as followers and should never lose perspective on what people need from their manager to reach their potential.
  6. Lifelong learner: Read any biography or autobiography of a great leader and you will find some element of “I never stopped learning”.

Being a “top performer” in a position did NOT make the list. Although it is nice to have it does not provide substantial (enough) value for success as a leader. For followers it helps lend credibility to their manager, however, certain required characteristics necessary to be a super-star contribute to failure as a leader of people.

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