Can Leadership Be Learned?
“Leadership cannot be taught, learned, or imitated…” – Balaji Krishnamurthy
According to Balaji, leadership can’t be learned, leadership must be developed. Rick Eigenbrod, another Vistage Speaker I heard recently, also focused on development. My third recent encounter with this idea happened throughout my trip with The Hunger Project to Mexico City and Chiapas.
One of the definitions of “development” is “the work of digging openings to…give access to new workings and of erecting necessary structures.” This happens to be part of my dictionary’s seventh definition of development and it refers to mining. For purposes of this post, it occurs to me as quite perfect.
Interrupting current mindsets and creating new openings for thought and action are where The Hunger Project starts. It’s exciting and unique approach starts with what is called “Vision, Commitment and Action Workshops,” during which mindsets that may have existed for 500 years are constructively disrupted and new, creative thoughts and actions are generated. People start creating their own opportunities and solving their own problems. Isn’t that what leaders are seeking from managers and team members?
In the not-for-profit world, a broad spectrum of work done with resource poor people around the world, including The Hunger Project’s, is categorized as “development.” Interestingly enough, a major consulting firm recently studied The Hunger Project’s work in Africa and concluded that all the other programs being run by others either started with training or with building infrastructure, hoping for a transformation in present behaviors which was seldom demonstrated.
So why don’t the ideas of learning and training work? Fundamentally, learning means “there is something outside myself, and if I had it, I would be a good leader.” Training also implies there is a successful way “out there” and if you are trained in it, you will be successful. The flaw in both approaches is that they start with your focus somewhere other than reaching inside yourself to bring out the authentic you and the unique leadership you can bring that can honed over the years by experience. Imitation more or less defeats itself for the same reasons as training and learning.
Your current mindset about leadership makes you the leader you are, the collaborative skills you demonstrate, and the results you are getting. If you intend to grow your leadership, your reach and impact, you must start digging new openings in your thoughts and beliefs. You must build the ability to self-reflect with some level of objectivity and you must learn to receive feedback and even criticism effectively.
Find people and programs that challenge your mindset. If you commit to this approach and work at it over time, you will find yourself creating and erecting new structures of thought and action which dramatically alter your results and those of the people around you.