How to learn leadership

Black letters on pale gray background, saying "The future starts today" I posted a question this morning on LinkedIn: “What’s the most successful thing you’ve done to develop your leadership?”

The common denominator among all the answers?

Choosing to own their leadership skill development.

Whether that was accepting a reeeaaally stretchy promotion, taking a volunteer leadership role, or simply deciding to learn leadership skills, it was all about personal ownership and intentionality.

There are some very damaging myths about leadership that keep people from taking these steps.

For one, “Leaders are born, not made.” (Can I just simply say, bull?! This one annoys me to no end!)

Others include ideas about how leaders always have to have the answers, always feel confident, have some sort of magical people-skills and charisma, or just end up in the right place at the right time and play the political game well.

I’ll go on and say “bull” to all that.

Having been an executive myself, and having worked with a lot of leaders as clients and students, I can tell you categorically that none of that is true.

Leadership is made up of a set of learnable skills. Just like anything else, some people have more native talent than others – but everyone can learn, and no leader is the super-confident, always-knowledgeable, hyper-decisive person we might imagine them to be.

The question really is – do you want to learn?

Not everyone wants to be promoted into leadership, and that’s just fine. (Though it’s worth noting that we are all leaders in one way or another, simply because we all influence the people around us by what we say and do.)

But if you do want to be a leader in your career, then take ownership of that desire and actively pursue it. Read. Take courses. Learn. Find mentors, even if only from afar. Hire a coach whose style fits with yours. You can’t learn leadership by osmosis; you have to pursue it like you’d pursue learning a language (because in some ways it is a language) or studying history (because historical examples of leadership are highly instructive, as much to know what NOT to do as what TO do!), and so on.

Leadership is individual – this is one of the core principles of my work in leadership development – and so take everything you learn and examine it carefully to see if it fits. You wouldn’t walk around in shoes two sizes too small or too big; don’t adopt a leadership practice that’s wonky for you. But don’t give up on a leadership practice until you’ve experimented and proven that it doesn’t fit you.

Want to be a leader? Learn. Learn to be a leader for good, the leader your team needs and your company needs. Learn to be the leader you're meant to be. Your future starts today - *everyone's* future starts today. What will it be?Click To Tweet

Your future starts today. What will it be?

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