>When I think of leadership, I think of things like ability to empathise, ability to achieve win-win in conflict situations, ability to motivate and inspire, ability to delegate (which implies ability to ‘let go’ and trust others), ability to think and act strategically, being self-aware…..
In my previous life as a therapist, I had extensive training and supervision around attachment, as most of my clients had some sort of attachment disorder, and from those experiences, I have come to believe that we are all born with dispositions. They are the ‘background music’, if you like, that colours our initial interactions with the world. Things like ‘character traits’, ‘personality traits’ or whatever term you wish to use, however, are learned in our early years. These things eventually become part of our hard wiring, but we are not born with these. We are intensely influenced and shaped by our early environment and early relationships in such a way as to colour a lot of how we see the world and how we respond to it. I’m talking about how early relationships and experiences impact on our limbic systems.
I believe the only things that are innate are our drives to move away from pain or move towards pleasure. HOW we do that is shaped by those formative years.
I am suggesting that leadership skills are ALL learnt. Nobody is born with the ability to empathise. We learn that when we receive empathy from our primary caregivers. Having said that, all of those ‘soft skills’ I listed earlier, and others, can be developed and honed later in life. There are now human technologies which can, to some extent, re-hard-wire our brains such that we can develop these things. In my work, I apply a suite of action learning methods distilled from the work of Jakob Moreno. While some of my clients say it feels like ‘magic’ when they notice immediate and lasting shifts in their world, it is definitely not magic. Modern science is now doing research which shows that when such methods are applied, the key parts of the limbic system which need to be stimulated (in order to re-learn an emotionally based response) are indeed activated.
I think a lot of the cynicism about training these skills is derived from people’s experiences of ‘training events’ which don’t result in significant shifts in attitude or behaviour. It is vital when crafting a learning programme, that the correct type of learning PROCESS is used. Transactional processes are great when trying to train something like ‘how to use excel spread sheets’ or ‘how to write a business plan’, but transformational processes are best used when trying to develop something anything in the realm of leadership, culture or communication, if we want to actually learn HOW to do something and not just learn ABOUT it. It is also important to see leadership development as just that…NOT training. Training and development are both essential but have different applications and generate different outcomes. Leadership is developmental. It does not happen at an event, it happens over time, so patience, hard work and commitment are required.