In my recent Mindflash post on developing leadership skills, I proposed three ideas. First, leadership is a skill set like any other. Second, it can be learned like any other. Third, not everyone wants to learn the skill of leadership despite great efforts to design effective leadership development programs. These ideas were debated in a Linkedin discussion where there were insightful exchanges about brain science, motivation and people's natural inclination to want to learn.
It seems people's ability to learn leadership skills is largely a function of their motivation to learn and having a brain that is wired for it. As it is with anything people want to learn, it is likely a combination of the two. For starters, one must be motivated or one cannot learn anything. Also, if your brain isn't wired for it, you can't learn it.
The original intention of that blog post was to raise the issue that leadership is a skill that can be learned, just like multiplication, playing the piano, tennis or project management. Leadership is a skill, not a mystical ability available only to a few exceptional people. I hear too often that leadership is something with which people are born — that one either has it or one doesn't. This is a limiting belief that preempts people from trying to learn to be better leaders.
If you're running a small business and plan to hire more people, you will definitely have to teach yourself leadership skills, just like you taught yourself how to start up your business or learn the craft on which your small business is based. In order to get your business to grow to the next level, you will need other people to execute your vision, and getting people to execute your vision requires nothing short of astounding leadership. The good news, I remind you, is that leadership can be learned just like anything else. It is just a matter of how badly you want to learn it.
Bill Cushard, Chief Learning Officer at The Knowland Group, is a learning leader with more than 12 years experience in training and performance improvement at companies such as E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.