Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Leaders...Born Of Nature or Practice?

Leaders, born or made? Scholar Richard Arvey found that among twins, leadership is 30 percent genetic/born and 70 percent learned/environmental. A pretty interesting thought to start with. We can also turn to the work of K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues which may get to the heart of developing leadership in yourself and others…

“People believe that because expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance the expert performer must be endowed with characteristics qualitatively different from those of normal adults. This view has discouraged scientists from systematically examining expert performers and accounting for their performance in terms of the laws and principles of general psychology. We agree that expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance and even that expert performers have characteristics and abilities that are qualitatively different from or at least outside the range of those of normal adults. However, we deny that these differences are immutable, that is, due to innate talent. Only a few exceptions, most notably height, are genetically prescribed. Instead, we argue that the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a lifelong period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain” (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993, pp. 399-400).

One key seems to be intentionality and one problem is that many people are not deliberately “practicing” effective leadership. There is often no coach and it’s hard to get a real perspective on effectiveness, and even more difficult to get unfiltered perceptions of others. Feedback (personal, 360, coaching from supervisor or consultant) is one way to gauge progress. However, the interventions listed above are somewhat rare in organisational life. For instance, other than the annual performance review, what kind of ongoing coaching do you receive from your supervisor? Hopefully, a lot. Maybe not though.

Do some have a certain level of natural talent? Likely. Can others get better over time? Sure. Are you practicing the right stuff? Hopefully. 

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