Leadership…Training or Talent?

I believe there is a difference between managers and leaders.  Managers help drive the business to reach results in a status quo way.  Leaders help drive change in the business.  Leaders pull the business forward to new levels.  Both are needed in a company.  Leaders don’t necessarily have to be in management positions.

With that being said I do believe that there are certain positions in an organization that the manager must also be a leader.  Most of these positions are at higher levels of the organization.  Without leaders at higher levels driving change, the company will not grow or move forward the way that it might need to in order to survive.

So, is the ability to lead effectively a talent or is it something that can be taught?

I believe that leadership is a talent.  It is something that a person has the natural ability to do.  Can they person get some training and education on how to be a more effective leader?  Sure they can.

Can a person who doesn’t have a talent to lead learn some leadership skills?  Yes.  But, this is more of a stop gap because they are in a role that requires them to be more of a leader.  Leading still won’t come easy to them, therefore people will have  a hard time following.  I have seen people follow a manager trying to lead just because of the respect for the position and not the person leading them.  In every case, I have never seen this workout to a good result.

True leadership, getting people to change their minds and direction is a talent that can be enhanced and fine-tuned through training.  When leading people want to follow and go where the leader is taking them.

What do you think?  Is true leadership a talent or can it be trained?

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Posted on April 15, 2011, in Leadership, People and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the fact that Leadership is a talent which is a part of a person’s make-up. This talent can be enhanced or diminished based on training or environment, but no one can be made into a leader just because they are given the responsibility for managing people.

    In my mind, it is similar to the difference between someone who is a preacher and one who is a pastor in a church setting. One may be a good speaker (preacher) who can fire up a congregation and get them excited about their faith but he may not be able to reach down and actually lead his flock into practical application by being a part of their life’s joys, sorrows, struggles, etc. The other (pastor) may not have the most dynamic sermons, though he teaches truth, but he may walk with his flock in such a caring and compassionate way to inspire a daily walk by faith. A person can be taught how to be a public speaker, but the leadership qualities eminate from who a person is, not only what they do.

  2. Awesome post! There’s a big difference between a leader and a manager. From my experience, people who are put in management positions are usually the resident expert of their particular functional area. I’ve found these people usually don’t have strong leadership skills, they’re just the expert of a specific function. This tends to cause more problems like divergent goals and general confusion among the people doing the work.

    I remember my first “director” position and wondering why I was chosen when, in retrospect, I clearly wasn’t ready for it. All I know is that it was cool to be called a ‘director’ even though I had no idea what it meant or what to do. Long story short, I find managers generally aren’t trained on how to be managers and if they don’t have the right temperament to be in that role the organization is going to suffer.

  3. I believe both. The level and success of a leader, in my opinion, is often based on their ability to connect with people and some are just better than others at doing that.

    I, for instance, am an engineer and very straight forward. I get kudos for being honest, approachable, and willing to do the right thing but I recognize that I don’t have the abilities that Ronald Reagan had when it comes to people.

    Can it be coached? Yes, to a point. I can work on my weaknesses but those who already have “it” are well ahead of me.

  4. I think it is both. I don’t think you can turn a non-leader into a leader through training. But I also think if you take someone with natural ability without specifically developed skills (whether through training, coaching, or other means), it can be equally ineffective.

    And although this might be oversimplifying it a bit, but does it matter? What I mean is this: regardless of where you are and what your natural talents, isnt the best decision to invest in yourself and your skills.

  5. Hi Matt,
    I think leaders must be made. When we are born, we are all the same. And our environment makes us develop certain characteristics over others.
    I believe that everything can be thought, as explained in the wonderful book The Talent Code, where even the greatest coach of all time in NCAA, John Wooden, is vivisectioned and his leadership style explained as a continuous improvement and adding of the little things to his experience baggage day after day.
    I think a potential leader must have good communication skills and must have the will to learn and improve his leadership skills, and a goal to where he wants to arrive. With that in mind, and with a lot of effort, mostly anyone with a sane mind can become a great leader.

  6. Matt,

    Put me down as a “both.” Leadership is a talent, but it can be developed, or least enhanced through training and mentoring (which means there must be experiential learning).

    • I agree with everyone about taking a talent and really fostering it through training. If I had to only choose one, it would be talent. I believe that if you don’t have a talent for leadership no matter the training you won’t be able to make the person a leader. Someone with talent can be a great leader with some training though.

      Also, I believe there are positions within an organization that it should be a “pre-requisite” to be a leader in order to be considered for the position. Anyone in the organization can be a leader but certain positions need to have a leader in them.

  7. I believe that leadership can be acquired through training.. We all know that everything rises and fall on leadership. The best leaders are ones who are passionate about personal growth and I believe that people who can really lead is the one with willingness and capacity to develop their skills that distinguishes leaders from followers.”

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