Are great leaders made or born? This is a question that has been endlessly debated by numerous scholars and businessmen, yet there is no clear answer to this question. Can a manager be turned into a leader? Perhaps. Can a follower become a leader? Maybe. Can it be impossible for some people to ever become leaders? Certainly.
The fact is that some aspects of leadership can be taught, but one has to have certain innate elements in order to learn how to truly become a leader. If those elements do not exist, one can at best hope to become an efficient manager, yet not the type of leader that people will follow from one place to another. We’ve talked about leadership personalities of great project managers, and now we want to separate the leaders from the followers.
So what’s the distinction? First of all, someone who has leadership potential should have a basic level of comfort in speaking to other people at any level. You should be able to talk to them about their behavior or performance, and inspire them to do their best. A manager can put together spreadsheets to dictate when these discussions should take place, and can handle them on a perfunctory level, but a leader will always be able to take this a step further, spurring others to do their best, to give their all, even under the most trying of circumstances.
A leader should also be able to make decisions, particularly the difficult decisions. Again, a manager can look at a decision tree analytically and come up with different scenarios that might lead to a conclusion, but a leader will be able to look at the big picture and come up with a decision that may be bold, yet necessary. Managers are often paralyzed by indecision when it’s not clear what the right move is, and may delay because of this, further worsening a given situation. A leader will act even when the consequences of doing so are unknown.
Furthermore, a leader should want to help others succeed. Again, a manager can put metrics into place that allow for mentoring or other types of encouragement, but a leader will have an innate ability to know what it takes to help others reach their potential.
Are these teachable skills? In some cases, a person may have raw abilities and inclinations that can be funneled appropriately to mold a person who embodies the essence of leadership. However, there are many cases of smart people who can be taught certain skills –and yet they will never be considered a true leader. Those people may be high achievers and may reach lofty positions in the business world, but once they leave that position, they will be easily replaced, and soon forgotten. A true leader will be remembered and looked up to as an example of the type of person to emulate. PDU leadership courses for project managers can help you sharpen your leadership skills.