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Leadership is demonstrated - not measured

Bradley de Souza | Oct. 23, 2014
Bradley de Souza calls for an end to the current 'leadership by numbers' obsession - and why failing a leadership exam isn’t always the worst outcome.

Leadership in this instance was more than just high scores on a dashboard; it was the whole versus the sum of the parts. The manager in question was executive material, a person who could rise to the top and be successful. Time has proven my assessment and the person in question holds a senior position outside of the company we both worked at.

Since then, more and more companies have become obsessed with developing leaders and measuring leadership. Leadership boot camps, yearlong programs, even one-day workshops all strive to imbue leadership qualities and behaviours into people who may or may not possess leadership potential. This kind of training tends to drive a false sense of success in those people selected to be leaders. The candidates are, more often than not, chosen for political reasons rather than true potential or capability. This breeds resentment amongst those with talent that otherwise go unrecognised. The subsequent product of this leadership by numbers' approach usually ends with very mediocre leaders who fail to deliver. While it's easy to learn from a good leader, it's even easier to learn from a bad one. The process delivers bad leaders who invariably fail with rather easy and obvious lessons to learn, littering the organisation with failures.

My own experience tells me that you are either a leader or you're not. Good leaders are not made, but rather they are discovered through circumstances where a person stands up and holds him/herself accountable on behalf of others.

Leadership is often thrust upon those not quite ready for leadership, not out of choice or design, but usually because others perceive the presence of leadership qualities when those qualities are most needed.

Learned behaviour
Whilst leadership is a got it or you haven't' quality that very few of us posses, a good leader is always able to learn and improve their leadership abilities.

Unlike those who believe that anyone can be programmed' to become a leader, I believe that good leaders can become great leaders through careful mentoring, tutoring and experience.

It's often overlooked in organisations, but existing leaders can always be developed further. This development yields much greater benefit to the organisation than the development of new, unrecognised leaders.

During periods of change and instability, it is the burden and duty of a leader to shield people from uncertainty until such time as stability can be seen on the horizon.

The obsessive focus in companies today is to have as many leaders come through the ranks as possible. History has taught us that leaders are few and far between, great leaders are even rarer. Whilst the development of a few people may seem elitist, we must recognise that leadership is not about equality.


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