Popular leadership myth #1 – leaders are born not made

It’s a commonly held view that people either “have what it takes” to be a leader or they don’t – they are born with certain characteristics which fit them to be a leader, and if they don’t have these characteristics, they’ll never make the grade. If you subscribe to this belief, you’ll forever be looking for a needle in a haystack, searching for the ‘right’ people with the ‘right’ characteristics. And if you weren’t born with the ‘right’ characteristics, you’ll be in danger of writing yourself, and others, off!

A different interpretation is that anyone can be an effective leader. When people are inspired by a compelling challenge, leadership emerges – a product of being passionately committed to fulfilling that challenge and that future. People gain new power, confidence and courage through accepting a challenge that exceeds their previous experience.

When the opportunity to make a difference is sufficiently compelling, people risk stepping forward as a leader. You see it happen all the time:

  • Abraham Lincoln came from humble beginnings and was a serial election loser, yet ultimately became arguably the greatest ever US President.
  • George Foreman was a kid in the streets of Houston whose work ethic, faith, and sheer desire drove him to become an Olympic gold medallist, twice heavy weight champion of the world, a wealthy businessman, popular personality, and pastor to a small church in his community.
  • Kate McCann was an unassuming mother who rose to the challenge of finding her stolen child by beginning a globally recognised campaign for her own daughter and for other ‘lost’ children.

When people believe passionately in what they are doing, and why they are doing it, they become unstoppable. Forget about the characteristics you were born with: find your true inspiration, or a cause that ignites your anger and passion for justice, and you, too could become an unlikely leader.

Leaders are quite often simply ordinary people with extraordinary commitments, who are willing relentlessly to take the necessary actions to deliver.