Finding Leaders

Are Leaders Born or Made?

Some Management Coaching Ideas on Leadership


Leadership is a key element in the development or rebirth of any organization, whether it is a for-profit business or non-profit community organization. It is important to large corporations, such as General Electric; small local businesses, such as a town dry cleaner; city, county and state government; churches, and service organizations such as Rotary.

Many of us admire the skills exhibited by those who assume leadership roles in these organizations and assume such skills are well beyond our own personal reach. We assume that people are born with these skills and are therefore in the DNA. That assumption is wrong. Though we may be born with the leadership trait of intelligence, all the others are developed through experience and learning. The qualities that define a good leader such as vision, focus, motivation, curiosity, discipline, positive attitude, perseverance, analytical thinking, excellent communication skills, and so forth are most definitely developed and not in the DNA.

Starting with this understanding, how can someone develop those skills which are need to help grow their business, strengthen a government agency, help a church better serve its congregation, or help its civic club do good in the world. Let us consider four possibilities; experience, education, mentoring and management coaching.

Leadership Learning Through Experience

Most of us have developed our leadership skills through experience in the school of hard knocks. We have learned to be focused, disciplined, and persevere because the opposite did not lead us to success. We have learned communication skills through practice.  Hopefully, we have learned to motivate others through the success and failure of trial and error.

This approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Leadership is a hands-on process and the most effective way is the lessons learned through the application of those skills on a group of followers. The disadvantage is that this approach may take an extended period of time and leave a lot of unhappy followers along with many opportunities for success lost.

Leadership Learning Through Education

Many colleges and universities give their undergraduates courses on leadership. At Mount Olive managementCollege, we teach leadership as part of our Organizational Development and Health Care Management Undergraduate Programs. Some universities provide executive training programs with an emphasis on leadership. These programs emphasize the skills and theories that need to be employed in order to be a more effective leader. They open the student’s eyes to the possibility of utilizing these skills to make themselves a more effective leader.

Although case studies and role planning can be used to simulate real world situations, there is no substitute for the practice of leadership under pressure. Real leadership development comes from knowing the real rewards and consequences from the successful or unsuccessful use of an individual’s leadership skills. Great leadership comes from understanding the nature of the situation, the motivational needs of the followers, and the use of appropriate leadership skills. Educational programs can only serve as a starting point upon which development can occur.

Role Models and Mentors

Role models and mentors represent a very common approach to leadership development. Our admiration for a role model leads us to use many of the leadership techniques they employ. Mentors are usually more experienced people who can suggest approaches to be used in situations where our leadership is necessary. Mentors can also provide us with feedback on our leadership successes and failures.

Following a role model can only be beneficial if one shares their attributes and personality traits. For example, if the role model is extroverted and demanding, while the student is introverted and submissive, the result might be an effort which does not seem genuine. The student exercise of skills would seem unnatural and insincere. Leadership development through the exercise of role model techniques can only be accomplished if is a compatibility of attributes and personality traits between the two people included.

A good mentor is hard to find. Some organizations assign the mentor’s role to a successful senior manager who may be a successful leader, but inexperienced and untrained in the development of leadership skills in others. Relationships tend to be very informal and are only success when there is mutual trust and respect.

Management Coaching

coachingThe use of a management coach can provide the best combination of proven theory and the practical application. Coaches work either with an individual or group over an extended period of time. Their programs start with learning some of the basic approaches to leadership and, within weeks, participants are applying them within their own organizational responsibilities. The participants experience success and failures along the way. They build upon their successes and learn from their failures. The extended program time, as little as three months and as long as several years, allows the participants to ingrain these new practices into their attitudes, habits, and behaviors. With this, their ability to lead increases exponentially.

A management coach is not to be confused with a mentor. The mentor relationship is often very informal. The mentor may be a great leader, but may lack the understanding of how to develop others into great leaders. The good coach will first learn about the client through extensive interviews and evaluation instruments. He will then develop a systemic plan for exposing the client to applicable principles and theories of leadership. As the program progresses, the participants will begin to apply these principles and theories. Finally the coaches will continuous work with the client to overcome new obstacles to progress.

We encourage you to consider your leadership skill and  how you could be more successful with some improvement. Consider a coaching program but emailing us at to start a conversation .