A colleague posed this question the other day, and it got me thinking.
At first, I thought about how some of us are just natural leaders. Born with certain magnetism, charisma, and a knack to attract, influence, inspire people.
And others, maybe not so much naturally, but can choose to work on leadership and communication skills, management skills, and all the other “requirements” that the society has decided makes a good leader.
Then I thought about my personal experience from my first-ever job interview in Corporate America more than a decade ago.
The recruiter was sitting on the opposite side of a large boardroom table, sure of himself and his achievement in the Royal Navy in the British Army.
With a smirk on his face, he glanced at my resume, and asked, “Why were you only a team co-captain? Were you not good enough of a leader to be a captain all by yourself?”
Recalling this experience further jogged my memory. It brought up a recent article published by the Harvard Business Review titled “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?” written by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.
What does make for a good leader indeed?
Thousands of pages have been written on the topic. Hours of conversations have taken place.
The above-referenced article alone, for example, explores “Why are so few women in management positions? The popular explanations range from women just aren’t capable of being leaders to women just don’t want to be leaders. According to the author, however, the absence of women in leadership roles has less to do with women themselves and more to do with how we interpret leadership traits.”
One of the general conclusions is that leadership certainly requires a mastery of skills that were once considered soft, feminine, and board-room-inappropriate. Compassion, interpersonal skills are just two of them.
So I can see where that recruiter was coming from. And even though every fiber of my being was telling me to get up and leave that conversation, “be a good girl, be polite, just smile” prevailed.
This brings me to the next layer of this writing.
Intuition. Trusting our own intuition.
I believe that what makes for a good leader is impeccable intuition – and one’s ability to discern it.
It’s another hot topic in the leadership arena, and especially in the industry of women’s empowerment.
And yet, all those years and decades later, we keep operating by the cultural and generational programing we have been indoctrinated into.
“Don’t be bossy! You are too much! Don’t be so loud. Wait. Smile. Be nice.” Sounds familiar?
“I am not bossy, I have leadership skills!” says a shirt my friend’s daughter was rocking the other day.
And there it was!
The answer to the original question of “Are Good Leaders Born Or Made?”
One afternoon, my daughter came from school with an assignment to complete. First-grade appropriate, the task was simple: match descriptors with the images of facial expressions dn body poses. Happy. Sad. Angry. Scared. Confident. Bossy.
The image to go with it was that of a girl (a girl of color, to be precise). Needless to say that the returned assignment had a little note written on the margin after I had a little chat with the kiddo about the subliminal message she could have received.
When it comes to women in particular, I do believe with all my heart, that it is the society and systemic scrutiny that makes bad leaders. And that imposes glass ceilings that those women who indeed are capable and who indeed are interested, cannot break.
At least not on their own.
As a former premier online business management and consultant turned master life coach and mindset expert, I continue working with those women in leadership who are not only capable and interested but ready and willing to break that ceiling – and do so in a new, different way.
Not only do we work on exalting them as leaders in the typical sense of the word – corporate office, business setting, political environment.
We also look into the nucleus – their nuclear families for these women are also leaders at home. Primary home providers. Mothers raise the next-generation leaders, instilling in them values, equipping them with tools, and promoting discernment, and empower them to step up, stand out, and course-correct when they will deem necessary.
Indeed, this new Aquarian age calls for a different kind of leadership!
And the most important part is not in tearing down toxic masculinity/patriarchy alone, but in addressing equally-as-harmful toxic femininity! And in its effort, merge, balance, exalt both leadership styles. To bring about a new way that uplifts, embraces strengths, offsets weaknesses – of individuals, of communities, of societies, of nations, of humanity. Top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top. It does not try to squeeze one into a box of some outdated definitions and expectations.
Task of such magnitude is naturally multilayered, and a very intentional undertaking that will take time, effort, collaboration, and open-mindedness. With one eye on all the lessons, history has taught us. And, perhaps a new definition of “good,” “bad” and “leadership.” For starters.