Dan Maxwell
March 9, 2017

Recent political events and scenarios around the world, raise the question of qualified leadership. It’s certainly not a simple matter and the debate continues about whether leaders are born or made.  However, everyone agrees we need able leaders – and that it’s a good idea to invest time and effort in their development.

leadership competencies

Nick Youngson – http://nyphotographic.com/

One way to view, measure, and evaluate leadership development is through competencies.

Based on personal research, Sunnie Giles published The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World in Harvard Business Review.

As he notes, the competencies aren’t surprising.

What does surprise me is his comment that: “they’re all difficult to master, in part because improving them requires acting against our nature.”

This statement implies a leader has no natural ability on which to build competencies. Instead, their makeup hinders their development. To put it another way, who they are gets in the way of what they want to become. I am not convinced. Here’s why.

Regardless of the approach used to define and measure them, many personality assessment tools point to the fact that everyone is naturally hardwired to find certain behaviours “natural”. Even a basic understanding of personality traits points to personal characteristics which influence behaviour.

natural ability

Nick Youngson – http://nyphotographic.com/

For example, delegation is “natural” for those with low detail orientation. They are motivated to look at the big picture and identify the cause. In their minds, the work is then done; they are ready to hand off the detail to others and move on to addressing the next problem. That’s their nature.

So when the author goes on to say: “many leaders struggle to let people self-organize,” it implies many leaders have high detail orientation – and will therefore consistently struggle with letting go and trusting their employees.  They will also struggle to develop competencies such as delegating, problem-solving, and strategic planning.

Why? It is against their nature.

Unfortunately, too many leaders are hired, trained and promoted without considering natural ability – leading to conclusions like: leadership is a struggle for everyone.

When it comes to developing leadership competency for your organization, the picture is not that gloomy. Some are actually “cut out” to be leaders. They are risk takers, relationship builders, initiators and problem-solvers – by nature. As a result, they far more quickly absorb training, adopt skills, and assume the right behaviours – naturally.

To put it another way …

Some are hardwired for leadership and far more quickly master the competencies to do it well.

Are you convinced natural ability makes a difference in leadership development?

Do you have the tools required to identify those abilities?