Have you ever judged your leader’s ability to lead you? I certainly have. I have ruthlessly divided them into categories of Good Boss and Bad Boss. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t realize that not all the leadership styles math my needs, or I don’t match all the ways of leading. One additional category is the bosses who think the 2 days leadership course they attended somewhere in the 80s is enough to keep the skillset up to date and employees content. That person would have been a bad boss earlier, but nowadays, I think it’s fair to say there is a category for a “don’t need any education” boss too.
Leadership is often considered one of the most essential skills for success in the workplace, yet many organizations continue to view it as a personal trait rather than a competency that can be developed and trained. Or, in the worse case, the leadership culture is based on the belief that good leaders are “born, not made” While it suggests that some people are naturally better suited for leadership roles, the evil truth is that leadership potential is not only determined by one’s personality and character but can be developed and improved through education, training, and practice. This perspective can cost a lot of grey hair to individuals and the organization, resulting in a lack of focus on developing leadership skills and a failure to recognize the importance of effective leadership.
The Difference Between Approaches to Leadership
Organizations that view leadership as a personal trait tend to focus on identifying and hiring individuals with certain personality traits, such as charisma or assertiveness. However, this approach ignores that leadership is a set of competencies that can be developed and honed over time through training, coaching, and experience. That can also considerably impact the company culture and team dynamics. While a workplace that values these traits can be a lively workplace, it can also create a culture that prioritizes individual achievement over teamwork or collaboration, which can be detrimental to team dynamics and value them above other essential skills and qualities such as empathy or humility.
The Benefits of Developing Leadership Competencies
I have met people who have proudly told me this training isn’t from them. They know it already. I have also met people who go to every training and feel still insecure about going forward with their leadership careers. Whether it’s a matter of investing in an organization’s or personal leadership development, the studies show that you can achieve long-term success in cultivating a culture of excellence. Hence, a culture that believes leaders are born, not made, may be less likely to invest in leadership development programs.
How to Champion Leadership Development in a Culture of Born Leaders
So, if you find yourself in a tricky position and feel like the culture is more toward born leaders, and there’s no leadership development on the horizon, is escaping the scene the only possibility to improve the situation? This will be a huge learning opportunity if your situation allows you to stay and feel you won’t be overburdened. It will be hard work to stand out as a cultural breakwater, but it’s not impossible. Yes, you need to lead the way by showing an example; you need to be an endless promoter of a growth mindset and shout out repeatedly the benefits of leadership development and the programs. And then, my favorite part of this task list; you need to foster, enable, underline and shout out the importance of learning and personal development. Encourage, time after time, your colleagues and teams to seek out opportunities for growth and development and provide them options and support so they will succeed. Make learning a priority.
Is Mentoring Your Boss Possible, and Should You Try?
And if your boss is born to be a leader? The saying goes, “When there’s a will, there’s a way,” but sometimes the “will’, or more accurately, your will, just isn’t enough. I have not had a good success rate on these change processes involving my boss. I may need to continue polishing my sales skills. But I have tried my fair share. I have been building a relationship to understand the perspective and establish open communication, which would allow feedback; I have shared success stories, tried to lead with my example and offered to mentor my boss, suggested leadership development opportunities, and so forth. Sometimes it has paid out, and sometimes, I have lost my time and energy for nothing.
The lesson I have learned:
- Same person can be both, a good boss to someone and a bad one to someone else. It takes two to tango; you need to be a match
- Good boss can learn how to build a better match
- Good boss can become a bad boss, if not developing themselves
- Bad boss can become a good boss if willing to develop themselves
- Bad boss will stay as a bad boss if they’re not developing themselves
Leadership is a Journey, Not a Destination!