Lead thinking

It could be a weakness of mine, but every few years or so I indulge myself in some manner and sort of “leadership” training. Like many things, it strikes me that leadership is a talent that is nurtured rather than a skill that is mastered. To be sure, there is some redundancy in the messages – and there are a lot of gimmicks (all designed, innocently enough I think, to help us remember both the message and the author). Having now traversed a decade or two of this kind of education, one can begin to see the patterns.

There are some who argue that to lead is to serve – imagine Mahatma Gandhi saying, “There go my people, I must hurry to catch up with them for I am their leader.” Others might argue that leadership must be strict and demanding from the top – imagine Nicco Machiavelli saying, “A leader ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred.” Others still urge that leadership cannot be taught (or learned) and only received as a genetic coincidence at birth – imagine Winston Churchill saying, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” While Sir Churchill was likely quoting another Englishman, William Shakespeare, the point is the same. Namely that leadership can be simply born if not pursued or demanded.

I’m not sure which, if any or all, of these views is correct. If nothing else, this twice a decade renewal refreshes my commitment to thinking about leadership as a thing to be practiced rather than a proficiency added to be added to a resume. Doesn’t taking time to consider “leadership” as both an object and as an act remind us to consider how and to whom we choose to apply it?