There is an age old question: are leaders born or made? If they are born, it would seem they are equipped to handle the challenges of leadership for any situation. If they are made, it will require constant training to navigate new scenarios. Whether leaders are born or made, when they don’t have all the answers, they will be able to lean on more seasoned executives for advice. However, what happens when everyone is faced with a situation that no one has ever witnessed, like the recent global pandemic?
If leaders are born, it would seem they magically have answers and a style to fit all occasions. Some will call them intuitive leaders who seem to have a way of navigating themselves and others through challenging times. And 2020 ushered in a challenge that has forced everyone to change and deal with a new normal. These are the times the masses look to leaders for direction.
Except, you have to wonder if there are limits to born leaders. Are they prepared for all occasions? Are they really born with the ability to lead? Or did they grow up in an environment where leadership was part of their education? There are many people who were raised in a home with parents who were entrepreneurs. Or their father may have been a CEO in a major corporation. Those children would have been exposed to conversations with their parents or colleagues of their parents that revolved around being responsible for the well being of others, making tough decisions, focusing on a vision and mission, understanding the cost of hiring and firing people and many other aspects of leadership. On the surface, it would appear they were born with leadership in their DNA. The fact of the matter is they were being educated almost at birth.
Historically, when we look at leaders like Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great and Hannibal, we see their fathers were also great leaders – kings or generals. The men I named above grew up with an education that is unlike most. Perhaps you could say their environment made them.
At the same time, there are those who never lived in an environment with leaders. They either sought leaders to be their mentors, went through formal education or worked in an organization that provided training and opportunities to utilize the leadership education. For most, it would be obvious they were made into leaders.
With that said, what is happening with leaders today. The world is facing a situation that no leader in recent history was part of. While there was a pandemic in 1919, how many of today’s leaders were around to have experienced that? Besides, today more than ever the world is connected through a global economy. In one way or another, we all depend on other countries to support us for manufacturing, food or services. This time we are really in this together.
Perhaps this is the time we learn to leverage one another in a way we have never done in the past. It may also be a great opportunity to retrain ourselves to deal with constant change. By that, I am not saying there is never stability. I am saying the world is changing faster than ever through technology and globalization. The global pandemic may be the wake up call for us all to develop a new mindset that is more nimble and better able to deal with constant changes and uncertainty.
It will require a mindset that is prepared to venture into completely new paradigms while maintaining the integrity of the existing business models. New paradigms often require new skills, knowledge, mindset and the ability to invent information that no one has seen. It also requires a fair amount of risk tolerance. On one hand, the new paradigm can be disruptive and hugely successful, like the iPhone. On the other, it can miss the mark and fail. Except, the lessons learned can be the catalyst for other opportunities, like Post-Its.
For leaders to build that kind of nimble enterprise, executives would have to put themselves through a sizable amount of training and transformation. The next step would be to train the rest of the organization. This kind of training does not mean leadership will have all the answers in the face of today’s global pandemic. It simply means the transformative training allows them to be more nimble mentally. That allows them to not be as reactive as people who operate in status quo. The transformative leaders will be better positioned to step back and look at the landscape for opportunities as they leverage the brain power of those around them.