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Leader Training 101

There’s A Lot To Be Said About Leadership

I’m sometimes asked if Leadership can be taught. I’ll let you join in on the discussion.

If you listen to the higher educational institutions you will often hear them claim that they train the next generation of leaders. And, you can expect a heated exchange between graduates of West Point Military Academy and Harvard University when the subject turns to who has the longest list of leaders in their alumni roles. (Note: West Point says it teaches its officers to be effective and successful followers first…not generals first.)

Let’s establish a definition for the term so we are at least using common criteria for identifying the person worthy of the title. By Leader, I do not restrict the application to those who have a “title” that requires people to follow them. By Leader, I look for those who take on the obligation of “leading” in order to serve others who are accountable for “doing the work”.

And, in a fair debate about leadership, I think we have to view “leaders” from the vantage of followers. I hope you would agree that a record of mediocrity, a banner for average, or a record of inconsistency has not ever gotten much of a following. And, oh, by the way, managing isn’t leading. According to Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper “You manage things; you lead people.” Or, said another way, effective leadership is the capacity to envision, identify and prioritize. Management is the discipline of implementation and carrying things out short term.

It may be easier to create mental images of “leaders” by listening to their perspectives about themselves and the role of leadership:

· The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. Max DePree

· Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Jack Welch

· “I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” Ralph Nader

· “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Bill Gates

I do think it can be developed. I also believe that development can be aided by the three “E’s”: education, exploration, and experiences. Education is a function of one’s willingness to be open to new ideas; not merely a degree. Exploration is a willingness to take risks and venture forward into new areas. And, the sum total of our experiences reinforces and seasons our trust in the application of judgment and logic over emotional decision-making. It is a function of core values and integrity that give the confidence to persevere in difficult times.

So, what do you think as you look around your organization? Are you full-up with leaders or managers?


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